Biblical at Heart
by Scott Hahn
Emmaus Road, 2003
216 pages, $15.95
To order: (800) 398-5470
Once again, Scott Hahn sets out to motivate Catholics to soak long and often in the Word of God. And once again, the popular Catholic apologist and Steubenville professor excites in his readers a heightened appreciation for the Bible's inextricable link to the Church.
In Scripture Matters: Essays on Reading the Bible from the Heart of the Church, Hahn gives an insightful overview of the four traditional ways Scripture can be understood and argues that the Bible must be read with each sense in mind. In addition to the literal sense of Scripture, the Bible should be read in the moral, allegorical and anagogical senses, as well. The Bible conveys moral truth about how Christians should live, allegorical truth in the allegories and symbols that point to the person of Christ, and anagogical truth about heaven. Hahn insists the Bible is best understood only when one integrates all four of these senses.
In what is perhaps the book's most challenging (and challenged) chapter, Hahn explains what he believes is “the one key that unlocks the mysteries of faith … the family of God.” He argues that God, as Trinity, is a family — and is constantly calling the human family to union with him. “The whole of the Scriptures,” he points out, “can be viewed as the story of how God, as Father, repeatedly strove to invite people into his household … and to draw his wayward children home.”
Hahn includes two chapters about the centrality of Scripture in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. In another, he provides a moving tribute to the recently canonized St. Josemaria Escriva and the preeminent place he gave to the Scriptures in the spiritual life. In one essay, he states that we must learn to speak of the Eucharist as a kind of “second coming” as the early Christians did.
Elsewhere, Hahn explains the importance of Jesus’ “hour” as the climax of his mission. Particularly in John's Gospel, this “hour” refers to Jesus’ suffering and death — the culmination of his saving work. Understanding the term in this way makes sense of many Gospel passages, from the miracle at Cana to the conversation with the Samaritan woman.
In an essay that's particularly helpful in current debates about marriage and the priesthood, Hahn offers an insightful look at the priestly vocation of fatherhood and the fatherly vocation of the priest-hood. He ends with a thoughtful critique of current trends in biblical scholarship. In each essay, Hahn's style is accessible to a wide range of readers — some might even call it “talky” — yet even seasoned theologians can benefit from his clear and enthusiastic elucidation of the basics.
As can happen in a collection of essays, some points end up being made more than once. Then again, as any student will tell you, with repetition comes recall. The essay format also allows for skipping through to the topics of greatest interest at any given time. Taken all together, they provide an integrated study of the way the Scriptures should be read and the importance they should have in the Christian life.
Scriptures Matters is an invitation to penetrate the mysteries of God's word more deeply, always within the tradition of the Church. If it finds the wide readership it deserves, it will succeed in its aim to help Catholics become Bible Christians and Bible Christians to become Catholics. After all, the Word of God is the heart of the Church. Just so, the Church should be the heart of every Christian.
Ryan Connors is a philosophy major at Boston College.
- August 22-28, 2004