Monday, August 22, 2005

ITB: Getting started

Well, discussion on our last summer book, the former Cardinal Ratzinger's In the Beginning, has come late (my fault). Peter at CT got it started on Friday with this post on Pope Benedict's great talent in Biblical scholarship - that he "marries our new knowledge with our spirituality so as to produce a theologically sound and productive interpretation."

I don't really read biblical scholarship, but the first thing B16 points out in this work (which is composed of 4 homilies he gave as part of a Lenten reflection several years ago) is that he thinks modern biblical scholars and theologians have failed by ignoring the great riches that are found in the book of Genesis. This is probably true, since I remember when reading Pope John Paul's Memory and Identity that I was struck by his use of the first three chapters of Genesis, so his liberal use of the text must have been important to me since I'd never really seen it before.

But Pope Benedict approaches Genesis from a different angle than PJP did. I guess I had not recognized until I read this work that in addition to the two creation stories in Genesis, there are several others throughout Scripture, the most important of which begins the Gospel of John. There is also more than one story of the fall. The Holy Father does a wonderful job showing how the details of each creation story respond to the circumstances of the time, particularly how Genesis' creation and fall address pagan beliefs in that day. But it's evident that the more things change, the more they stay the same - how well Genesis' accounts address ideas of today.

B16 also points out the unity of Holy Scripture. He makes clear that those who read Genesis - indeed read any of the Old Testament - without reflecting upon it's relationship to Christ will get little out of it. We must read the story of creation and the fall forward, not backward, which is what we do when we read it in isolation from the revelation of Christ.