Sunday, March 9, 2008

Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana Research Sources

OK, I watched the two YouTube clips in which Anne Rice discusses the research material she used for her books... They are:

Jesus the Christ and The God of Jesus Christ by Walter Cardinal Kasper.

In a review of this book I found, it was stated by one reviewer that Kasper seems to be a fairly liberal theologian, assuming that most infancy narratives are unhistorical and that the nature miracles were also legends. The books were also considered to be quite difficult for the uninitiated philosopher to tackle. He has been a leader in ecumenism in the Church.

Next we have three books by Anglican theologian and Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright, entitled:
The New Testament and the People of God, The Resurrection of the Son of God, and Jesus and the Victory of God.

According to one reviewer of the Book The Resurrection of the Son of God, "My favorite chapter was the one devoted to what Paul actually said about his encounter with Jesus. You might be surprised to learn that there was no falling from the horse in the road to Damascus, and that the narrative in Acts about a blinding light and a voice is only a biblical model to tell about an encounter with God's sphere. Tom Wright is more interested in what Paul himself said, not Luke. And Paul's words cannot be read in another way: he says that he saw Jesus."

In another review of the book The New Testament and the People of God, another reviewer writes: "I cannot understand his insistence that Jesus didn't really "know" know that he was the Son of God." Perhaps this helps explain why Ms. Rice takes this point of view in her depiction of a possible description of what Jesus' thoughts may have been.

In a review of Jesus and the Victory of God, a reviewer comments on this same point: "After hundreds of pages of argument, Wright rather abruptly asserts that "Jesus did not know he was God," at least not as one knows one "ate an orange an hour ago." He thinks such self-knowledge would be unbecomingly "supernatural." (Though he doesn't quibble with multiplied loaves or the resurrection.) At this point one gets the feeling that Wright's conclusion (or guess) is based less on historical evidence (which, as another reader points out below, ought to include John, Paul, and other Jewish Christians), but on a desire to keep a souvenir from the far country -- perhaps to show other scholars. Or maybe he just doesn't want to sound too conventional -- publish novelties ("discoveries") or off with your academic head. In any case, one wonders if his own dogmatically expressed opinion about Jesus' sub-divine mode of consciousness itself has a supernatural origin. He offers no other sources, in this case. " Another point made by the same reviewer gives a bit of general commentary that leads one to believe that his views may not be entirely orthodox, or at least that his sympathies lie with dissenters: "Wright seems less kind to his conservative Christian "elder brethren" than to younger (separated) brethren still sowing wild oats in the far country of historical speculation. This attitude troubles me."

Next we have a book by a Baptist who is a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, D. A. Carson entitled The Gospel According to John.

A few comments from a reviewer of this book : "I bought this commentary on John, and this is not a bad one, and Carson gives you several good insights, but he follows one of the routes of the protestant tradition, the worst one, the zwinglian. He tries to hide any sacramental sign of the Gospel of John: He says that the water and Spirit of Jn 3:5 is not about baptism. He says that water and Spirit is a reference only to the Spirit, and that we to understand Jn 3:5 as pointing to Ezekiel and the divine promise of the gift of Spirit and water. But Carson can't avoid the fact that Ez could refer to the giving of the Spirit via the sacrament of Baptism. Carson is a baptist, so he follows the bias of his tradition.

Carson tries to twist Jn 6, to avoid the obvius: that Jesus is the Bread of Life who must be believed, and Who can gives us life by eating His flesh and drinking His blood at Lord's Supper. Carson tries to convince the reader that Jn 6,53-58 isn't about Eucharist, and he fights against the clear meaning of the text and the reading of the first christians as Ignatius, but, Carson finally gives up and says, "well, this text is about the Eucharist as any other text of the Gospels". Even though he is a follower of Ulrich Zwingly, he at least admits that John 6 has an alussion to the Eucharist."

The above comments gave me pause... let's hope for better stuff to come...

Next comes The Gospel According to Matthew, by Leon Morris, another non-Catholic author who is another Anglican theologian. There wasn't much in the reviews I saw to indicate much about his particular perspective, although one reviewer said he leaned toward the conservative. However, I am not sure exactly what that means in the Anglican tradition relative to the Catholic and would hesitate to make any inferences from the statement.

Moving through the list of source material, we next have two books by the evangelical author Craig Keener, who is professor of New Testament at Palmer Seminary (Wynnewood, Pennsylvania), The Gospel of John: A Commentary, and A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. I didn't find any Catholic reviews of his books when I looked. They seemed to appeal primarily to protestant and seemed to be quite positively reviewed by protestant preachers.

A book entitled Birth of the Messiah by Raymond Brown, S.S., gives detailed analysis of the infancy narratives. One comment by a reviewer (who probably made it thinking to be a positive review) made me wonder about this when he said: "The book has the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur declarations that the book is free of doctrinal or moral errors (from the point of view of the Roman Catholic church), but Brown's Catholicism doesn't color the book excessively. For example, he admits that it is unlikely Mary took a vow of virginity, and also that the "brothers of Jesus" were probably his brothers in the usual biological sense. More generally, Brown openly recognizes the historical improbability of certain events (such as the visit of the Magi), and doesn't strain to impose dubious harmonizations on the infancy stories or to concoct interpretations meant to uphold the literal truth of the NT. The one place where he draws a line is on the virgin conception itself; he claims that it is unscientific to reject it as impossible a priori." I am finding it very hard to understand how the book could have a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur if, indeed, Brown supported the views about doubting Mary's perpetual virginity and supporting the idea that Jesus had other natural siblings. That being said, the reviewers were almost unanimous in their praise of his work on the infancy narratives and the completeness of his work.

Another Catholic theologian, Jesuit Karl Rahner was author of another source book entitled Foundations of Christian Faith. Well, this seems to be a very difficult book for a non-philosopher to grasp from what I can gather from the reviews. Apparently, his views were a bit off the main path of orthodox Roman Catholicism in some regards... here is an excerpt from a reviewer: "Rahner, in contrast to the entire catholic approach to theology of the past 2000 years does not start his understanding of Christianity by elaborating upon the tenets of revealed faith, but starts from 'below' ie. from mankind as a species which is open to the supernatural in its very essence and then goes on to show how 'faith' fills this need or 'spiritual vacuum'; the point of conflict here is whether faith is inherent in human nature or is an act of grace (a created spiritual reality which is granted to Man but is not part of his natural constitution). Rahner, amongst other things, even opens out to Eastern religious ideas by stating that 'purgatory' might even be worked out over a series of successive reincarnations - something which clearly has the 'traditionalists' tearing their hair out!! A further difficulty, for the traditionalists, is that he tries to make evolution an integral part of an aspect of his understanding of faith - here I think he's on shakier ground. Placing a/any scientific theory as an integral part of theology exposes it to the risk of collapse should the theory prove (over time) to be false or is replaced by another theory (look at what happened with Galileo!!)."

Her final source listed was a book titled The Priority of John, by John A. T. Robinson, an Anglican. This book is out of print, but I did find three reviews of it. Apparently, Robinson makes the case that the gospel of John was the first one written of the four and that it was written by John bar Zebedee.

Well, it is late and I have to get up early tomorrow morning... but I am looking over the list of source material and find that it is mostly non-Catholic authorship. And, of the Catholic writers, there seem to be a few comments that would make me a bit wary... I'll definitely have to give this list more thought -- but tomorrow!

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