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10/7/2013 11:51:00 AM
Scholars offer historic, contemporary looks at Eucharist
These are the covers of
These are the covers of "The Eucharist: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics" by Father Mitch Pacwa, SJ, and "Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church" by Scott Hahn.
Catholic News Service

Consensus among Catholic Scripture scholars tends to maintain that to gain the best understanding of any given biblical document -- and, by extension, any part of that document -- we need to understand the various stages of scriptural development.

In other words, to best understand Scripture we need to take seriously that Scripture is the word of God in human -- historically, culturally conditioned -- words.

Without explicitly acknowledging all this in "The Eucharist: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics," Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa leads the reader, either as an individual or as a member of a Bible study group, through a study of what Catholics can learn about the Eucharist from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (i.e. the Old and New Testaments). While adult Catholics may well have appreciated at least a short chapter on contemporary Catholic methods of scriptural interpretation, all that Father Pacwa offers clearly depends on his own mastery of these methods and what he has learned from using them himself.

Father Pacwa's book is divided into six sections for use in the same number of Bible study sessions. Following a section on Old Testament background to the Christian Eucharist, in the remaining five sections he leads readers through what may be learned from the Old and New Testaments about the Eucharist, and in some instances, he also draws on Jewish tradition as it is still practiced today.

Parish Bible study groups, as well as individual Catholics, will find in this slim volume a helpful resource to gain a more complete scriptural background for understanding and experiencing the Eucharist.

In "Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church," which takes wholeheartedly contemporary Catholic methods of Scripture scholarship and interpretation, Scott Hahn says his overall aim is "to promote biblical literacy for Catholic laypeople and biblical fluency for Catholic scholars and clergy."

To that end, Hahn not only draws on modern Catholic Scripture scholarship, but he takes quite seriously the role of sacred tradition, including the writings of the early Fathers of the Church and other saints. He even draws on what may be learned from the church's responses to early heresies, as well.

What may we learn about the Eucharist from the oral traditions that preceded the written New Testament documents? What may we learn from the New Testament documents themselves? What may we learn from the regional churches we find in the New Testament and from how the New Testament uses the Old Testament? What does it mean to say the Scripture is sacramental? How are the Lectionary and the New Testament similar and how do they differ?

By reading through what Hahn says in response to questions such as these, readers will find themselves and their understanding of both Scripture and the Eucharist greatly enriched.

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