It is a well known fact that the Christian church has, in the course of its 2,000-year long history, often been torn with controversy over how to understand those four simple words, ‘This is my body.’
The Orthodox have never been entirely comfortable with the label ‘transubstantiation,’ and at the outset of the Reformation, the Catholic understanding of the Mass was one of the prime issues that provoked Luther to decry the ‘Babylonian captivity’ of the church.
Luther, of course, went on to denounce Zwingli’s view of the Eucharist as vehemently has he had the Catholic one, and slightly later the Reformed followers of Calvin decided that they disagreed with both Luther and Zwingli. The intensity of these debates is understandable in light of the fact that all involved assumed that a correct understanding of the Eucharist had a direct bearing upon the manner in which Jesus was present to his followers.
Was Jesus still here, bringing salvation to his church, or had he departed and left them to get by as well as they could on their own? Defining the nature of this ritual was intrinsically tied to understanding the purpose of this community. Although this story is one often told, the parallels it presents to Christian views on the Bible have often gone overlooked. For the sources of Christian communal identity for the past two millennia include not only a ritual meal but also a written book.
At first this assertion strikes the reader as so obvious it hardly merits mentioning. However, recognizing the importance of this principle accounts for some of the disconnect modern readers of the Bible experience when they attempt to read accounts of scriptural interpretation from late antiquity.
As recounted in Michael Legaspi’s The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies, in the past five hundred years the Bible in the West has undergone a transformation as it was abstracted from its previous home in a unified Christian church and resituated in the context of modern academia.
Such a move would have appeared quite foreign to Christians of an earlier age who assumed that the Bible could not be understood properly apart from grasping its place in the divine plan of salvation centered upon the person of Jesus Christ.
For example, Cyril of Alexandria, the fifth-century bishop of the city that served as the intellectual capital of the Roman world, liked to use a metaphor to explain the Bible’s purpose to his Christian hearers.
In his sermons and writings, he explained the presence of the Bible in the church by stating that Jesus had given this book to his followers, like a shepherd providing his flock with green grass for their nourishment.
Cyril, of course, knew that the Bible was written by countless persons over a vast span of time, and he tried, using the best tools available to him, to attend to that sort of historical detail. But what was most important, in his view, was the fact that when the Bible was read, Jesus himself was present to save, in a manner akin to his presence in the Eucharist.
Whether it was the words of Moses or of the evangelist Mark, when Christians sitting in the basilica in late antique Alexandria heard the scriptures, what they experienced was Jesus himself speaking to them through that myriad of human voices.
And in making this assumption they were following a trajectory already begun in the New Testament itself. Had not the Apostle Paul declared that Christ was speaking in him (2 Cor. 13.3), and did not Jesus himself say that his words were ‘Spirit and life’ (John 6.63)?
For most twentieth-century historians, early Christian exegesis was regarded as unworthy of historical attention due to its failure to attain the standards of modern hermeneutical method.
Imagine the absurd parallel of modern scientists rejecting medieval views on the Eucharist on the basis that those benighted premoderns did not properly understand the chemical composition of bread and wine. Such a dismissal hardly grapples seriously with the way Christians tried to articulate the function of the ritual.
Late antique readers fair somewhat better when seen in their own context. If the Bible is viewed as the written and living voice of Jesus, then the task of interpretation comes to mirror this assumption.
Just as Jesus speaks through the human authors of the Bible, so interpretation must be a process of finding Jesus in those same words, so as to provide spiritual nourishment for Christians seeking to grow in virtue and understanding.
In this way, what Cyril and his contemporaries believed about the Bible determined the way in which they read the Bible as a community, and the consistency of their approach is laudable.
The Bible is open to a great many interpretive approaches, and the plausibility of those methods will always be a product of the community in which the reader is situated. Late antique Christians, who assumed that scripture functioned analogously to the Eucharist, at least managed to find an interpretive method that accorded with their communal experience of this book.
The post ‘This is my word’: Jesus, the Eucharist, and the Bible appeared first on OUPblog.
Image, branding, and logos are obsessions of our age. Iconic images dominate the media. In his new book, Christ to Coke, art historian Professor Martin Kemp examines eleven mega-famous examples of icons, including the American flag, the image of Christ's face, the double helix of DNA, and the heart.
I'm cheating (just a tiny bit) today. Liz and I have this whole "Exercise of Writing" week going on, and I need it and Poetry Friday to play nice together. So, I'm giving you some poetic excerpts from one of my favorite books about sports (and so much more):
(This is the paperback cover.
I own the hardback, which looks quite different.
was Rich Wallace's
first book, and he's gone on to write many more
. But when I met him at the Highlights Foundation Writer's Workshop at Chautauqua
, he had just published this strong debut novel, with blurbs on the back from the likes of Robert Cormier, Jerry Spinelli, and Chris Crutcher. (It also received starred reviews from Booklist and Publisher's Weekly, and was noted by ALA as a Quick Pick and a Best Book for Young Adults.) He's still on the Writer's Workshop faculty
today, so catch him there, if you can.
You would think that I (a girl) would not like a book (about a boy) that features a sport (wrestling) that I've never attempted, but you would be wrong (arm twisted behind your back wrong.) I love this story, and one reason is the short poetic lists that are interspersed throughout the book. Here's one:
Things I've done twice:
* pinned Al (seventh grade)
* told my father to go to hell
* read Conditioning for Wrestling: The Iowa Way
Things I haven't:
* left home for four days
* been suspended from school for
telling a teacher to kiss my ass
* had sex
And here's one more:
What happens before a match (in this order):
* diarrhea and mood swings
* a kind of prayer where you curse at
God and beat yourself up, then tell
God you're sorry and he says it's okay
* a concentrated sense of focus
* you don't joke around with anybody
* you don't resign yourself to losing
* you never say it doesn't matter what
Maybe Rich Wallace didn't think of those brief interludes as poetry. But I choose to.Poetry Friday
is hosted today at Mentor Texts & More.
At first I wasn't sure what I'd do for this, but the first thing that popped into my mind was a song called "Enough." Then I remembered a sketch I'd done about 4 years ago - I was doing a lot of stained glass back then and it was a design for a glass panel (entitled "Ascension"). It also reminded me of one main aspect of my faith - that Christ's death and resurrection were "enough." The debt is paid in full.
When designing for stained glass, you have to consider things like how to divide up the picture into pieces that aren't too impossible to cut out of glass (which prefers to break in a straight line). In this drawing, I was able to disregard some of those restrictions, such as allowing the hand to extend beyond the frame. Being a religious theme, however, I thought it appropriate to keep the stained glass design quality in the shapes.
I never got a chance to make the panel, but I would like to someday. I did not add any color because I intend to use different textures of clear glass or very subtle colors. Maybe some day...
Merry Christmas to all. May the love of Jesus Christ fill your hearts with joy and peace at Christmas and always. As for us, we are blessed beyond compare this Christmas because we have and treasure each family member and friend, and the unique way each one enriches our lives beyond compare. Thank you.
A few weeks ago, we were joined by two wonderful new publicity assistants, Nick and Bobby. Now that they’re settled in, I decided it was time to harass properly introduce them to you. Hopefully this (incredibly interesting) Q&A will show how lucky we are to have them on board.
Do you speak (or pretend to speak) any other languages?
Nick: Yes, Farsi. My parents were born and raised in Iran. They came to the US to continue their studies at college. They met here in the States and a few years later I entered the picture. My first language was, in fact, Farsi. I grew up in a house where my parents and grandparents both spoke to me in Farsi. I did not learn English until I was in early elementary school. Looking back, this now explains so much…
Bobby: I studied Spanish up until sophomore year of college, but I can’t really call what I do with the language “speaking” it. I also studied some Japanese when I studied abroad, and I can now ask where the train station is, I think.
What is your favorite book that was not originally published in English?
Nick: War and Peace. I read it for the first time a few years back after my brother continuously insisted on my commitment to finishing the behemoth of a book. Finally, I gave in and I am now forever indebted to him. This book is my bible and is undoubtedly this best piece of literature ever created. It is both a beautiful story as well as a deep philosophical piece that proves to be a perpetually modern novel that will never lose its relevance in society. This is the only intellectual answer I will provide, promise.
Bobby: Labyrinths by Borges, which might not count since it’s a collection of short stories. No other author has inspired so many moments of disturbed awe and wonder for me. I like when a book freaks me out enough that I have to leave the room.
Fill in the blank: Don’t stop _____________.
b) ’til you get enough
c) the music
Nick: ’til you get enough.
Bobby: Believing, duh.
What’s your favorite viral video?
Nick: Does Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video count?
Bobby: Stalking cat.
Which is more awesome: a Jesus Christ lizard, or a
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