John R. DONAHUE. Seek Justice That You May Live: Reflections and Resources on the Bible and Social Justice. New York: Paulist Press, 2014. pp. 310. $29.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8091-4874-5. Reviewed by John SNIEGOCKI, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH 45207.
In this book John Donahue, SJ builds upon his earlier valuable works on the Bible and social justice. Donahue is the author of the classic essay “Biblical Perspectives on Justice,” first published in The Faith That Does Justice, ed. John Haughey (Paulist Press, 1976), and author of What Does the Lord Require? A Bibliographical Essay on the Bible and Social Justice (Seminar on Jesuit Spirituality, 1993, rev. ed. 2000).
Donahue explains his purpose in the current book as being “to present reflections on major biblical themes and significant texts that will draw readers into the richness of the Bible.” (xv) The book is organized into chapters based mainly on distinct portions of the biblical text. After an initial chapter providing an overview of Catholic Church teaching on social justice, subsequent chapters explore “creation and exodus” (including a discussion of liberation theology), “covenant and law,” “prophetic voices,” “the psalms,” “wisdom and apocalyptic justice,” “Jesus: Prophet of God’s Reign,” “the Gospel of Matthew and the letter of James,” “Luke-Acts,” “the Pauline writings,” and “the Johannine writings.” The book then concludes with a chapter entitled “From Text to Life” in which Donahue provides some brief guidelines for the use of the Bible in Christian practice.
In each chapter on the biblical material Donahue provides an overview of central themes of the text in relation to social justice. He does not so much seek to make an original contribution to biblical scholarship with this book, but rather to provide a broad introduction to the biblical material and to encourage further and deeper exploration through a vast array of bibliographic material that he supplies. Each chapter is followed by an extensive bibliography (sometimes ten pages or more), with helpful short comments by Donahue on many of the works that he lists.
Donahue also is honest concerning the limitations of his work, highlighting for example that it does not adequately address topics such as treatment of women, the environment, or peace. (xv)
Overall, this is a very useful book, both for the content of Donahue’s own reflections and for the annotated bibliography that he supplies. It would be helpful for anyone seeking to better understand the centrality of concern for social justice in the Bible and would be a valuable addition to libraries to go along with other works on the Bible and ethics/spirituality such as Bruce Birch, Let Justice Roll Down: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Christian Life, Larry Rasmusssen and Bruce Birch, Bible and Ethics in the Christian Life, Kyle Fedler, Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality, and Barbara Bowe, Biblical Foundations of Spirituality.