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210 Antiphon 15.2 (2011) Scott Hahn, Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press. Pages 204. Hardbound. $21.99 Near the beginning of Covenant and Communion Scott Hahn makes the following claim on behalf of Pope Benedict’s theological importance: “Close study of [his] body of writings suggests that, had professor Ratzinger been left alone to pursue his scholarly passions, his achievements would have rivaled or surpassed those of the greatest Catholic theologians of the last century — figures such as Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Rahner” (p. 17). Laudatory as it is, this assessment strikes me as too modest. To be sure, it is in large measure because of the high ecclesiastical offices he has held that Benedict has attracted a wider readership than other prominent theologians have. But it is equally true that Benedict writes with clarity and simplicity and that he is able to express profound truths in a way accessible not only to specialists but also to educated laymen. What’s more, his writings are not just intellectually profound but spiritually insightful as well. Yet perhaps the surest indicator of Benedict’s importance on the current theological scene is the fact that both by example and by active encouragement he is helping to foment a genuine revolution in the study of Sacred Scripture among young Catholic scholars. (Perhaps my sample of Catholic graduate students in theology is biased, though there is lots of evidence that suggests otherwise.) The reason why Hahn’s book is a really good introduction to the broad sweep of Benedict’s theology is that Hahn knows precisely where to begin and precisely where to end. The ending is of special interest to readers of Antiphon and I will return to it below. The beginning, on the other hand, is the methodological key unlocking the door through which the new Scripture scholars can escape the academically oppressive regime of the historical-critical method. Benedict has been one of the most unrelenting critics of the exclusive use of historical-critical exegesis in the study of Sacred Scripture. He does not reject the method per se, acknowledging that Christianity is a historically-based religion and that its sacred writings are historical documents. As such, they are legitimately subject to questions about the conditions under which they were composed and about the history of their transmission. Nonetheless, in the last century the historical- 211 Book Reviews critical method has been employed against the backdrop of highly questionable metaphysical and epistemological presuppositions that are inimical to the faith and inconsistent with the Church’s own selfunderstanding . Accordingly, it has become fashionable in some circles to treat the writers of the New Testament, along with the leaders of the nascent ecclesial communities, as power-brokers bent on using the sacred writings to promote their own agendas, even at the cost of distorting the “real truth” about Jesus and his mission. What’s more, this so-called “hermeneutic of suspicion” has been touted as the only reasonable and academically respectable method for interpreting the relevant texts. The Fathers of the Church and scholastic theologians have thus been set aside as naive (at best) readers of both the Old and the New Testaments. Benedict rejects both the claim to exclusivity and the philosophical assumptions — especially those concerning the relation between faith and reason. In the first place, the canonical and extra-canonical stories about the early Christians, including the stories of the martyrs, are rendered absolutely incredible by the hermeneutic of suspicion. Why give your life for an obvious lie? Second, if it is indeed the case, as St. Augustine’s own experience taught him, that the only way to understand the Scriptures deeply is by employing what Benedict calls a “hermeneutic of faith” instead, then those who rely exclusively on the historical-critical method are in effect cutting themselves off a priori from saving truth. Why run that risk? Besides, why shouldn’t Catholic exegetes presuppose the truth of the doctrines of the Faith, given that assent to these doctrines is, as many past and present Christian philosophers have argued cogently, reasonable by any plausible test of reasonability? But more important...


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pp. 210-212
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