Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Dark Passages of the Bible: Engaging Scripture with Benedict XVI and Thomas Aquinas

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Dark Passages of the Bible: Engaging Scripture with Benedict XVI and Thomas Aquinas

Article excerpt

Dark Passages of the Bible: Engaging Scripture with Benedict XVI and Thomas Aquinas BY MATTHEW J. RAMAGE CUA, 312 PAGES, $39-95

Benedict XVI's letter Verbum Domini refers to "dark passages" of the Old Testament that contradict the ethical teachings, monotheistic claims, or assertions about the afterlife presented in the Gospels. In his new book Dark Passages of the Bible, Matthew J. Ramage, assistant professor of theology and biblical studies at Benedictine College, shows how these passages can be illumined by historical-critical exegesis and the light cast by the revelation of Christ.

In keeping with the subtitle, Ramage divides most prior thought on this question into two groups, which Benedict XVI calls "Method A" (patristic and medieval exegesis) and "Method B" (historical-critical exegesis). Many Christian readers of the Old Testament today slip into a Method A hermeneutic without knowing it. For example, rather than allowing for the polytheism apparent in early Jewish writings, they impose fully developed Christian readings onto the mentions of other gods.

Ramage argues, by contrast, that God started the Israelites at a slow pace, gradually constructing a divine pedagogy that would inch them closer and closer to monotheism by the time of Christ. And it was effective, because they alone ended up with monotheistic beliefs among the pagan faiths with which they were in contact. When we just stick to Method A exegesis, we often forget the amazing fact that Israel was able to study their often ambiguous Scriptures over the course of four thousand years and arrive at the conclusion that "There is no God but Yahweh. …

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