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The Annual Feast of Fools (Like Me)

It’s April Fool’s Day, and the blog is three years old. This is post number 1,800. Of the 150 million or so blogs tracked by Technorati, this one’s ranked 43, 173, with an authority of 104. And I’m a Marauding Marsupial in the TTLB Ecosystem. Three years of doing this, and I still don’t understand what any of that means. I don’t think I even have a working hit counter since my last one went out of business.

I do enjoy the company, though, so thanks for dropping in as often as you do. It makes the nerd’s life a lot less lonely, doesn’t it?

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Putting Your Duqs Up

Last Friday I attended Duquesne University’s colloquium on the reception history of the Bible. It was a full day. If I were a better note-taker, I’d have much more to blog. But I was too busy listening and absorbing it all.

Both keynote addresses were superb: “The Church Fathers and New Testament Exegesis” by Dr. Dale Allison of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and “Christ, the Church, and the Shape of Scripture: What We Can Learn from Patristic Exegesis” by Fr. Brian Daley, S.J., of Notre Dame. 

Dr. Allison gave five examples of plausible interpretations proposed (or, rather, commonly held) by the Fathers that are nowhere found in critical commentaries of the last two centuries (including his own!). He emphasized that his examples were representative, not exhaustive, that he was not a patrologist, and that a specialist might come up with many more. His bottom line: “Study of the Fathers should be part and parcel of … modern historical-critical exegesis.” He tagged Tertullian and Eusebius as two of history’s four great “intertextual” interpreters of Scripture (the others being Albert the Great and Grotius). T and E excelled at this, he said, because they were keen to disprove the Marcionites who sought to jettison the Old Testament with its God.

Father Daley looked at the “christological hermeneutics” of four ancient interpreters: Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius, and Augustine. He directed us to the works where each shows his cards, hermeneutically speaking, laying out principles of interpretation. I hope to track these down for you in the near future and collect them in a single post.

In the afternoon I attended “Blessed is the Glory of God from His Place”: Notes on the Jewish and Christian Reception History of Ezek 3:12, by Fr. Alexander Golitzin, host of the excellent online interdisciplinary seminar, Jewish Roots of Eastern Christian Mysticism. He was every bit as entertaining and illuminating as I expected him to be. I also enjoyed “The Reproduction of Gen 1:26-27 in Y. Berakhot 12d and Early Syriac Sources” by Dr. Silviu Bunta (University of Dayton) and “Reception History within the Canon Itself: A Case Study on Leviticus 25 and the Year of the Jubilee” by my friend Dr. John Bergsma (Franciscan University of Steubenville).

A highlight for me was carpooling over to the conference with David Mills, David Scott and Rob Grano, whose Amazon book links I have not yet learned to incorporate, using the most recent version of WordPress.

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Jewish Scholars on Christian Fathers on Jewish Matters

The New Republic reviewed Paula Fredriksen’s Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism.

The Economist reviewed Miri Rubin’s Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary. I haven’t read this one. Her Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture was very useful to me as I was writing The Grail Code: Quest for the Real Presence. Her thesis, in a nutshell, was that the realist doctrine of Transubstantiation made possible many of the great things in Christendom: the hospitals, hostels, and hospices, the orders dedicated to charitable works, etc. She was great on the medieval, but she didn’t quite get the Fathers’ doctrine of the Eucharist. In fact, she acted as if eucharistic realism arose in the Middle Ages, and she showed no evidence of having read Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nyssa, or more than a bit of Chrysostom on the subject. I fear the same thing might happen in this book — but, again, I can’t say because I haven’t read it.

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Pittsburgh’s Known for Catch-Up

It’s not quite fifty-seven varieties, but here’s my backlog of recent links. Sorry for the delays!

Maureen picks up a Cyprian allusion in a recent papal document.

Roger Pearse points us to a list of CSEL volumes with links to Google books, and an interesting bit on the Fathers and inerrancy.

Sister Macrina catalogs patristic audio available free online.

Phil has posted a patristic carnival.

Ben C. Smith has concluded his series on the New Testament canons of the patristic era. Feel free to applaud. This is a great achievement.

Roger’s also posting lively translations of the letters of Isidore of Pelusium: “It is necessary, my dear chap, to persuade your listeners by facts that the kingdom of heaven exists, and then to get those who listen to want it. However listeners let themselves be persuaded when they see their teacher acting in a way worthy of the kingdom. But if he philosophizes on the kingdom, while acting in a manner which deserves punishment, as you have done, how can he persuade his listeners? He acts like a man trying to persuade people to desire something which he has previously persuaded them does not exist!”

Adrian Murdoch has posted a ton of good material on archeology. I haven’t been keeping up with my links. Do go and read through his recent archives.
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A Surprising Patrologist

The biography of Meg More that came out in the U.K. last year is now shipping from the U.S. So I’m re-running my little notice. This is a lovely book for fathers of daughters. It’s a lovely book for lovers of the Church Fathers, devotees of Thomas More, and folks who are fascinated by the history of the Reformation era.

* * * * * * *

I just finished reading John Guy’s A Daughter’s Love: Thomas and Margaret More. It’s a sketch of the relationship between the sainted Lord Chancellor and his firstborn child, his “dearest Meg.”

I was first drawn to the book because I, like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, have five daughters — and what father doesn’t see hints of his young daughters’ great virtue in Meg’s character in A Man for All Seasons?

I did not know, however, that Meg was quite a patrologist. Like her father and the Mores’ friend Erasmus, she was a great reader of Eusebius, Cyprian, Jerome, and Augustine. She even corrected mistakes in Erasmus’s scholarship on the Fathers. John Guy thinks she should have been the obvious candidate to translate the Bible into English — except that it never would have occurred to anyone to ask a woman. Meg’s daughter Mary would one day translate Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History out of the Greek.

I do recommend A Daughter’s Love: Thomas and Margaret More, and not just for dads with lovely daughters, but for everyone. It’s not a devotional book, or even a “Catholic” book (I got no hint that Guy was a co-religionist of mine). It’s a book for all folks, all seasons.

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Anybody Going to This?

There’s a big patristics deal going on at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh next week. It’s actually a colloquium on the reception history of the Bible, and it takes place March 27, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s free and open to the public. How’s this for a lineup?



“The Church Fathers and New Testament Exegesis” — Dr. Dale C. Allison (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary)

“Christ, the Church, and the Shape of Scripture: What We Can Learn from Patristic Exegesis” — Fr. Brian E. Daley, S.J. (University of Notre Dame)


“Blessed is the Glory of God from His Place”: Notes on the Jewish and Christian Reception History of Ezek 3:12 — Fr. Alexander Golitzin (Marquette University)

“Scandal and Expectation: The Function of the Allegory/Typology Distinction in Contemporary Scholarship” — Dr. Peter Martens (Yale University)

“The Reproduction of Gen 1:26-27 in Y. Berakhot 12d and Early Syriac Sources” — Dr. Silviu Bunta (University of Dayton)

“Inspired Word and Spiritual Worship: How Byzantine Hymnography Interprets Sacred Scripture” — Fr. John Custer (Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Ss. Cyril and Methodius)

“Ancient Interpretation of John 8” — Dr. Susan Hylen (Vanderbilt University)

“Reception History within the Canon Itself: A Case Study on Leviticus 25 and the Year of the Jubilee” — Dr. John Bergsma (Franciscan University of Steubenville)


“My Journey with Mark” — Fr. Sean P. Kealy, C.S.Sp. (Duquesne University)

I’m hoping to be there — if the work gets done between now and then. Let me know if you’re planning to go.

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Angels Have Landed

My new book has arrived — Angels of God: The Bible, the Church and the Heavenly Hosts.

Inside, you’ll encounter many of the usual suspects — Dionysius the Areopagite, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, and Augustine. Plus Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and a countless host of others.


What they’re saying about it:

RUSSELL SHAW: “Angels of God is a learned, readable and ultimately inspiring account — based on Scripture, the teaching and worship of the Church, and the real-life experience of many individuals — of the role played by these heavenly friends of ours in God’s providential plan and in our lives. If you want to get to know your guardian angel, start here.”

MARCUS GRODI: “… by far one of the most thorough and helpful books I’ve ever read about angels. Michael’s book remains safely within the boundaries of Sacred Tradition and gives readers a clearer understanding of ourselves, in relation to God and his heavenly realm.”

FATHER T.G. MORROW: Everything you ever wanted to know about angels and never asked. Another big hit for Mike Aquilina.”

As the catalog says: forget the sweet-faced cherubs of popular culture, and brace yourself for a far more potent reality: powerful heavenly beings who play a significant role in the drama of your daily life. Our fellowship with the angels (says Aquilina) is “not an ornament on our religion; it’s a life skill.”
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Martyr, She Wrote

Last year I did some consulting work for a new series titled Catholic Heroes of the Faith. I just received the good news that their first two video offerings are available for order: the animated Saint Perpetua Story and the documentary Saint Perpetua: Martyr of the Faith. (I’m talking, on camera and off, through a good bit of the latter.) The website’s very cool. They’ve posted the full text of The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity. They have all sorts of downloadable goodies, like coloring pages and posters. There are also video snippets everywhere. This stuff’s ideal for Catholic-school religion, CCD, or homeschool use.