Scripture and Tradition – an Excerpt from Reading the New Testament in the Church

The following is an excerpt from Reading the New Testament in the Church, by Francis Moloney.

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If the Tradition of the Christian community gave birth to the Scriptures, nourishes them, and keeps them alive in the community, then what is the relationship between the Tradition and Scripture, and how does this relationship play into Christian life and practice?

As we have seen in our reflections on Vatican II, especially Dei Verbum, the council’s 1965 document on Revelation, this is a matter of some concern. One of the several causes of the sixteenth-century Reformation was the importance of some beliefs and practices in the Roman Catholic Tradition that had no roots in the biblical Word of God.

Cover ArtAt the Council of Trent and at Vatican I, the Catholic response was that there were two sources of Revelation, namely, Scripture and Tradition. Although it never became an article of Roman Catholic belief, both councils maintained that the Tradition had a certain priority. It did not matter whether aspects of Catholic faith and practice were not found in the Scriptures. Insofar as they were part of the Tradition, they were part of the divine communication with humankind.

This stance, although nuanced now in ways that are different from the period of the Council of Trent, remains an essential aspect of the use of the Scriptures in the Catholic Church. To make a play on catchphrases from the time of the Reformation, Catholics are committed not to sola Scriptura (only Scripture) but to prima Scriptura (the primacy of Scripture).

After a hefty debate at Vatican II, there emerged something entirely new: Scripture and Tradition are intimately linked. Both contribute “to make the people of God live their lives in holiness and increase their faith” and “converse with the spouse [i.e., the Church] of His beloved Son” (DV 8). The two different sources for Revelation are now regarded as one:

“Sacred tradition and sacred scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. Flowing from the same divine wellspring, both of them merge, in a sense, and move towards the same goal” (DV 9).

This is a major contribution to the history of Roman Catholic thought. Fortunately, in that same statement, the council does not attempt to eliminate a healthy tension that might exist between Scripture and Tradition. This tension is found in the words “both of them merge, in a sense [Latin: in unum quodammodo coalescunt], and move towards the same goal.”

The fathers of the council wisely decided not to attempt a description of how the two merge into one. They recognized that by means of an interaction between Scripture and Tradition we encounter divine communication with the human. The initiative in this communicative act lies with God, and thus we do not know how this functions, but the highest form of the Church’s Magisterium stated in Dei Verbum 9 that it happens.

It is within this “uncomfortable” relationship between Scripture and Tradition that Christian faith is lived, even though there must be an awareness of the great richness of both Tradition and Scripture.

©2015 by Francis J. Moloney, SDB. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Reading the New Testament in the Church, click here.

Francis Moloney – Why I Wrote Reading the New Testament in the Church

Why I Wrote Reading the New Testament in the Church
Francis J. Moloney, SDB

The development of the Catholic Church as a dominant political power among the European Princes in the eleventh century, and the Reform initiated by Martin Luther in the sixteenth, distanced the Roman Catholic Tradition from a use of the Bible in its life and practice. Always regarded as “sacred” and a Word of God, kept alive in the contemplative tradition, it was nevertheless supplanted by a powerful teaching office that came to be known as the Magisterium and the enthusiastic practice of the Church’s sacramental life.

Cover ArtPope Leo XIII recognized that such a situation was unacceptable, betraying authentic Christian Tradition. In 1893, in his Encyclical Providentissimus Deus, he asked for a return to the Scriptures. Fear of heresy and possible abuses, coupled with two World Wars in which Christianity showed its worst face, saw to it that this return never took place. Pius XII came back to this crucial question in an even more radical call to the Catholic Church in 1943 in his Divino Afflante Spiritu, written to commemorate the centenary of Providentissimus Deus.

This appeal to return the Word of God to its rightful place at the heart of the life and practice of the Church has been regularly repeated since then, especially in Vatican II’s document on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum), the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the life of the Church in 2008, and the subsequent post-Synodal Exhortation of Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini (2010).

These appeals, however, continue to fall upon deaf ears. Many contemporary Bishops, Pastors, Religious Educators, and Believers find the New Testament too difficult and too foreign. My most recent book, Reading the New Testament in the Church: A Primer for Pastors, Religious Educators, and Believers, attempts to bridge those gaps. After indicating the life-giving value of a critical reading of the New Testament, I show that everything one finds within the covers of the New Testament was produced by the faith of the Church in order to further nourish and encourage the faith of the Church.

This is a book that I hope will challenge all Christians and Christian communities to accept that their Sacred Scriptures make God, and God’s design, known to them. It attempts to overcome the impoverishment of any Christian tradition that results from an ignorance of God’s Word. As St. Jerome (347–420 CE) once said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

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Francis J. Moloney, SDB (DPhil, University of Oxford), is a Senior Professorial Fellow of Australian Catholic University at its Melbourne, Australia, campus. He is the former Provincial Superior of the Salesians of Don Bosco for Australia and the Pacific region and former Katharine Drexel Professor of Religious Studies and dean of the School of Theology at the Catholic University of America. Father Moloney is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, a Member of the Order of Australia, and the author of more than forty books. He is also a member of the editorial board for Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament.

For more information on Reading the New Testament in the Church, click here.

New Release: Reading the New Testament in the Church

Cover ArtIn Reading the New Testament in the Church, internationally respected scholar Francis Moloney offers a Catholic introduction to the New Testament that shows how to read it both faithfully and critically.

The opening chapter and an epilogue directly address the theological requirements of, and historical challenges for, ecclesial reading. The remaining chapters give exemplary readings of the figure of Jesus and of the various divisions of the New Testament canon.

Conceived as a resource for religious educators, deacons, and other ministers in the Catholic Church, this book will serve Catholics and others as an ideal supplement to a conventional New Testament introduction or as a companion to reading the New Testament itself.

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“Readers seeking an introduction that combines scholarly integrity and theological responsibility will find Fr. Moloney’s book a welcome aid to understanding the foundational documents of the church.” – Harold Attridge, Yale Divinity School

“Christians of all denominations will discover here how sacred Scripture can still speak to and challenge believers today.” – Morna D. Hooker, Robinson College

“Equips religious teachers and the faithful with the essential knowledge they need to bring the New Testament into provocative conjunction with their own lives and their own experience.” – Philip F. Esler, University of Gloucestershire

“A very fine and comprehensive introduction to the New Testament….Reading the New Testament in the Church should be on every pastor’s shelf and on every seminary’s New Testament reading list.” – Dorothy Lee, Trinity College

“Once again, Francis Moloney has drawn upon his internationally renowned biblical expertise, vast knowledge of scholarly literature, and theological sensitivity to produce this timely resource for pastors and educators in the Christian tradition.” – Brendan Byrne, SJ, University of Divinity

“I heartily recommend this introduction to reading the New Testament as an excellent textbook for seminaries and training programs for deacons and lay Catholic ministers.” – William S. Kurz, SJ, Marquette University

“A gift for Catholics who want to read the New Testament as both serious Christians and intelligently critical citizens of the modern world.” – Sandra M. Schneiders, IHM, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University

“A timely reminder that the modern community of faith, both Catholic and non-Catholic, must read, appreciate, understand, and be informed by its ancient Scriptures.” – David Sim, Australian Catholic University

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Francis J. Moloney, SDB (DPhil, University of Oxford), is a Senior Professorial Fellow of Australian Catholic University at its Melbourne, Australia, campus. He is the former Provincial Superior of the Salesians of Don Bosco for Australia and the Pacific region and former Katharine Drexel Professor of Religious Studies and dean of the School of Theology at the Catholic University of America. Father Moloney is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, a Member of the Order of Australia, and the author of more than forty books. He is also a member of the editorial board for Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament.

For more information on Reading the New Testament in the Church, click here.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – March 27, 2015

Cover ArtAt RBL, Catrin H. Williams reviewed Francis Moloney’s Love in the Gospel of John.

Moloney not only argues convincingly for the pervasiveness of the love theme within John’s narrative, but he demonstrates the crucial importance of this theme for understanding the Gospel’s message about the relationship between God, Jesus and believers. Those interested in John’s theology will, as a result, gain much from reading this valuable study.

Also at RBL, Stephen J. Andrews reviewed The Character of Christian Scripture by Christopher Seitz.

Daniel Block’s For the Glory of God and Doug Moo’s BECNT volume on Galatians were both named as finalists in Bible Reference category of the 2015 Christian Book Awards.

Todd Scacewater, at Exegetical.Tools, reviewed Reading Koine Greek by Rodney Decker.

At Panorama of a Book Saint, Conrade Yap reviewed Created for Community, by Stanley Grenz and Jay Smith.

Michael Philliber reviewed First, Second, and Third John by George Parsenios.

Response magazine featured an article by Jeffrey Overstreet about A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible, by Robert Wall and David Nienhuis.

Two articles, In Defense of Proof-Texting by Brandon Smith and Catholic and Always Reforming at Glimpses Elsewhere, engaged with Reformed Catholicity by Michael Allen and Scott Swain.

Access Evangelical Covenant Church is hosting a book launch party for Todd Johnson and Cindy Wu’s Our Global Families.

 

BA Books & Authors on the Web – October 10, 2014

Cover ArtEdith Humphrey, author of Scripture and Tradition and Grand Entrance, was interviewed by Alvin Rapien at The Poor In Spirit.

“Many people believe that tradition is stultifying and repressive, where it is the living experience of the Church. Also, many think that it a separate authority to judge Christian matters, whereas Scripture and Holy Tradition are always intertwined.”

Publishers Weekly reviewed J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth.

At Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight began a series on Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker by Andrew Root.

Also, Tony Jones reviewed Andrew Root’s Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker.

Nathaniel Peters, at First Things, reflected on Andrew Root’s The Children of Divorce.

At The Christian Century, Bradley Hill recommended The Worship Architect by Constance Cherry.

Don Garlington reviewed Warren Carter’s Seven Events That Shaped the New Testament World, at RBL.

Also at RBL, David Lincicum’s Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter with Deuteronomy was reviewed by Archie Wright and Robert Foster.

Englewood Review of Books and Yale News recommend Andrew McGowan’s Ancient Christian Worship.

For the Glory of God , by Daniel Block, was reviewed by Colton Guffey at the Southern Resources blog.

Ivan Mesa, at Lucid Theology, reviewed The Drama of Scripture by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen.

In this video series Francis Moloney, author of Love in the Gospel of John, gives a survey of John’s Gospel.

On the Mortification of Spin podcast, Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt and Aimee Byrd recommended For the Glory of God by Daniel Block.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – August 1, 2014

Cover ArtFrederick J. Murphy’s Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World was reviewed by J. Todd Hibbard for RBL.

“[A] book that can be recommended enthusiastically. It contains a wealth of information that will enrich one’s reading of the apocalyptic literature of the biblical period, whether beginner or seasoned scholar.”

Also at RBL, Keith Bodner reviewed From Paradise to the Promised Land, by T. Desmond Alexander.

Marilyn Matevia reviewed Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Journey toward Justice, for The Englewood Review of Books.

Beginning with the Word, by Roger Lundin, was reviewed by Condrade Yap at Panorama of a Book Saint.

At Grace for Sinners, Mathew Sims reviewed Desiring the Kingdom, by James K.A. Smith.

Both Bob on Books and David Koyzis at Notes from a Byzantine-Rite Calvinist reviewed James Skillen’s The Good of Politics.

That Happy Certainty featured a series on Douglas Moo and his work in Galatians.

Atonement, Law, and Justice, by Adonis Vidu, was recommended by T. L. Arsenal.

EQUIP Book Club reflected on The Family by Jack and Judy Balswick.

At New Testament Perspectives, Matthew Montonini mentioned Francis Moloney’s forthcoming Reading the New Testament in the Church.

Gary Burge, author of Interpreting the Gospel of John and Jesus and the Land, wrote about the collapse of ethics in the conflict in Israel and Gaza.

 

BA Books & Authors on the Web – July 18, 2014

Cover ArtThe Institute for Sacred Architecture reviewed The Space Between, by Eric Jacobsen.

“Jacobsen artfully weaves together the linear progression of the story of redemption, which starts in the Garden and ends in the Heavenly City, with our understanding of the urban environment. He states that in our place and time we are not yet in the Heavenly City; however, we can and should work toward it.”

G.K Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology, John Cook and Robert Holmstedt’s Beginning Biblical Hebrew, and Rolf Jacobson and Karl Jacobson’s Invitation to the Psalms were reviewed in the Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament.

Daniel Waldschmidt, at the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Blog, reviewed Galatians by Douglas Moo.

At Scriptorium Daily, Matt Jenson recommended the Turning South series; comprised of Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Journey toward Justice, Susan VanZanten’s Reading a Different Story, and Mark Noll’s From Every Tribe and Nation.

Jordon Stone recommended Old Testament Commentary Survey by Tremper Longman, and New Testament Commentary Survey by D.A. Carson, at the Ordinary Ministry blog.

At Daily Theology, Krista Stevens reflected on The Gospel of Mark by Francis Moloney.

David Naugle listed Bonhoeffer the Assassin? by Mark Nation, Anthony Siegrist, and Daniel Umbel, in the Cardus summer reading list.

The Logos Academic Blog interviewed Bryan Chapell, author of Christ-Centered Preaching.

Peter Enns, author of Inspiration and Incarnation, interviewed Christopher Hays, co-editor of Evangelicals and the Challenge of Historical Criticism, as part of his ongoing “Aha” Moments series.

 

The Resurrection Narrative in John’s Gospel – an Excerpt from Love in the Gospel of John

The following is an excerpt from Love in the Gospel of John, by Francis Moloney.

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It has been claimed that so much happens in the Johannine passion account that there is little need for a story of the resurrection. Jesus has been exalted as universal king by means of his being “lifted up” (esp. 18:28–19:16a); the community has been founded (18:1–11; 18:12–27; 19:25–27); the Scriptures have been fulfilled; Jesus has perfected his task and poured down the Spirit (19:28–30); the ongoing presence of the crucified Jesus in baptism and Eucharist have been granted so that later generations might also believe, even in his absence (19:31–37); the nascent community exits bravely from its former obscurity (19:38–42); and all who accept the revelation of a God of love in this man who laid down his life because of his love for his friends will gaze upon the pierced one (19:37; see 15:13).

Cover ArtAs Jesus stated in his final prayer: “This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (17:3). The crucified Jesus Christ has made God known. What more is needed?

Charles H. Dodd, Rudolf Bultmann, and others are correct in seeing the Johannine Passion Narrative as the culmination of the Gospel’s Christology. Jesus has made known a God who loves the world by loving his own to the end (13:1; 17:4; 19:30). He has now made possible eternal life for all who believe in him by making known a God who loves by means of his own singular gesture of incredible love (13:18–20; 17:2–3). But this is not the end of the story. Early readers of the Gospel of John would have been well aware of the message that Jesus had been raised from the dead, and they wanted to hear that ending.

However, as with the Passion Narrative, John tells that part of the Jesus story in his own way. As we will see below, the major concern of John 20:1–31 is the disciples and all those who will believe in Jesus even though they have never seen him. This Gospel has been written for them (v. 29; vv. 30–31). They are the recipients of Jesus’ love command: “Love one another as I have loved you.” The story of Jesus’ revealing presence among them has ended, but the story of the disciples’ response to the love command is just beginning.

©2013 by Francis J. Moloney SDB. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Love in the Gospel of John, click here.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – October 25, 2013

Cover ArtGeorge Wood reviewed Why Study History? by John Fea.

“Fea pitches his book primarily to college students interested in the study of history as a major, but also to history teachers and history buffs. I fall into the last category. And as a history buff, I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this book, for several reasons.”

Mark Thiessen Nation responded to Roger Olson’s review of Bonhoeffer the Assassin?

Christopher Skinner at Peje Iesous shared some first thoughts about Francis Moloney’s Love in the Gospel of John.

Preaching.com reviewed Hermeneutics, by Henry Virkler and Karelynne Gerber Ayayo.

At Christianity Today, Brandon O’Brien reviewed The Suffering and Victorious Christ, by Richard Mouw and Douglas Sweeney.

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Today only, Friday October 25, the Commentary on James eBook by Robert Gundry is available free at participating retailers. Learn more here.

God’s embodied Word – an Excerpt from Love in the Gospel of John

The following is an excerpt from Love in the Gospel of John, by Francis Moloney.

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The Gospel of John opens by claiming that in “the beginning” the Word was already turned in loving union toward God, a union so intense that what God was, the Word also was (1:1–2). But this Word is, like all words, directed to others. Salvation is impossible without the Word, the light and life of humankind (vv. 3–4). This is a biblical way of saying that only in the Word can humankind find the answer to its hopes and deepest desires.

Cover ArtHowever, powers of darkness oppose the revelation of the Word of God. They attempt to overcome the light he comes to bring, but they fail (v. 5). Although only a hint at this stage, a Johannine theology of the cross already begins to appear.

The argument next shifts into history, through the intervention of John the Baptist. The Baptist points away from himself toward the true light (vv. 6–8). The light the Word brings is neither recognized nor accepted, but to those who do receive it, a unique salvation is possible: they will become the children of God (vv. 9–13).

The Word to be heard and accepted as the light and the truth is not an abstract notion. The Word that is one with God has entered our history; he has dwelt among us, the fullness of the gifts of God. The revelation of God himself, “the glory of God,” in the Word who has become flesh, has been gazed upon (v. 14).

But who is he? The Baptist reenters, calling out in his own words that the one who may come after him chronologically is greater than he is because this coming one has existed before all time (v. 15, recalling vv. 1–2). Israel regarded the gift of the law as the greatest of all God’s gifts. From the fullness of God we have all received a new gift that takes the place of a former gift (v. 16). The gift of the law to the Jewish people came through Moses, and it was a great gift. But now the perfect gift has been given: the gift of the revelation of the truth given to us through a man whose name was Jesus Christ (v. 17).

No one has ever seen God, but Jesus’ story that now follows is about God. Jesus makes God known (v. 18). “The prologue prepares readers to see the whole story of Jesus as God’s act of communication through his embodied word.”

©2013 by Francis J. Moloney SDB. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Love in the Gospel of John, click here.