Edward J. MAHONEY, editor, Scripture as the Soul of Theology. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2005. pp. 96. $10.95 pb. ISBN 0-8146-5155-0.
Reviewed by Francis BERNA, OFM, La Salle University, Philadelphia, PA 19141-1199

This small text provides engaging reflection for the professional as well as a manageable challenge for the advanced undergraduate or graduate student. Arising from a conference at St. Michael's College in Vermont four well-respected biblical scholars take up independent themes each employing the nuanced methods of their own focus. And, rather than offering what could be a disconnected assemblage of interesting articles, these works hang together nicely as each explores a contemporary question or theme for the application of the biblical text in today's world.

Sandra Schneiders lets the reader jump right in with the popular topic of biblical spirituality. While one could read the articles in any order, one does well to begin with Schneiders. Drawing on the best of contemporary theology Dr. Schneiders outlines a solid understanding of the sacred text as revelation. Employing key concepts and clear language the author conveys the exciting dynamic of meaning in biblical interpretation as one rightly struggles and wrestles with the text.

Similar evidence of sound scholarship comes with Frank Matera's consideration of "New Testament Foundations for Christian Ethics." Matera describes the moral life as a break with one's former life to embrace Jesus' proclamation that the reign of God is at hand (37). He covers both the moral teaching of Jesus in the gospels as well as the moral legacy of Paul. This article offers a solid understanding of biblical righteousness and a fine summary of four propositions regarding a moral life and the New Testament.

As a "woman in another branch of the Christian family" Bonnie Thurston writes that she wanted to avoid addressing the topic of women in the New Testament. Speaking at a Catholic college she did not find it her place to tell the Roman Church what to do. However, Thurston's admission that the Catholic Biblical Association represents her primary affiliation as a biblical scholar underlines the truly engaging character of her work. Thurston's article gives a concise yet detailed application of the historical-critical method of exegesis. Secondly, the author places that scientific inquiry, as with her own life, "within the living tradition of the Church" (42). Finally, Thurston draws solid conclusions along with appropriate "trajectories for further discussion" (59).

Coming at the text from a much different angle, John Shea explores the use of Scripture in pastoral care. Much more the story-teller and poet, he takes up themes of "weaving a tapestry" and the "sharing of memories, images, texts and thoughts" (61). The style of language should not suggest to the reader, however, the absence of critical thought. The author addresses the complex notions of the subjective state of the speaker and the interpersonal character of human meaning. A wide array of rich examples allows readers to connect to their own efforts to care for others as ministers of the Gospel.

With introductions by Paul Couture and Edward Mahoney, the text concludes with remarks by Wilfrid Harrington. This biblical giant sails through the text of Jonah to illustrate that "an openness to Scripture does indeed give life and warmth to our theology" (89). And, just as welcome, he notes "humor, too, has its place" (89).

Whether for personal reading or use in teaching, this little text has much to offer.


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