Perhaps you didn’t the need the pope to tell you that! Recent surveys in both a major east coast and a major western diocese found that American Catholics find the preaching at Mass to be one of the least satisfactory aspects of church life. TO READ THE REST, GO TO OUR NEW ADDRESS: www.SpeakingofScripture.org. Sign up to receive email notices there.
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Recently a student of mine told me about someone who claimed he could never be a Christian because manuscripts of the New Testament have undergone so many changes through the centuries that it’s impossible to really know what the New Testament authors really said. I wish I’d been there to set him straight!
The fact is that the writings of the New Testament are better attested by far than any other ancient works without exception. Today we have manuscripts copied far closer to the time of the original autographs and in far greater numbers than for any classical work of history or literature. Although there are numerous minor variants among the manuscripts (as is always the case in hand-copied writings), none of the variations bring into question any matters of doctrine.
For a brief overview of the facts, read this interview with Daniel B. Wallace, one of the world’s leading experts in the comparative analysis of manuscripts, a discipline called textual criticism. Not only does Wallace explain the reasons for the trustworthiness of the New Testament text, he reports the discovery of a fragment of the Gospel of Mark from the first century, an incredible find if it stands up to scholarly examination when it will be published in the near future.
From Ephesians by Peter S. Williamson, commenting on Ephesians 2:4-6:
After succinctly describing humanity’s desperate predicament, Paul bursts out with a declaration of the good news, beginning with the hopeful words, But God. God has not left us in our misery. God saw the situation of the human race, much as Exod 2:23–25 tells us he saw the plight of his people Israel enslaved in Egypt and acted to save them. Paul describes what kind of God this is: he is rich in mercy. Mercy, eleos, refers to the good will and kindness that seeks to help someone who is in trouble or need.
God’s motive for acting was his desire for our welfare: he acted because of the great love he had for us. The Greek is more forceful, using the word for “love” both in its noun and verb forms: “because of his great love with which he loved us.” Love (agapē) refers to cherishing and caring in a self-giving, disinterested way. To make plain that we did not deserve this love, Paul indicates that God loved us even when we were dead in our transgressions. This line recalls Rom 5:8, where Paul says that “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
© 2009 Peter S. Williamson and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
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Some friends recently made the excellent decision to read through the entire Bible in the course of a year and asked for advice. When I first read through the Bible in a year it had a transformative effect on my life. Spiritually speaking, it was like eating a perfectly balanced diet for a year while working out daily! I felt stronger; I had more energy for doing what I should do! Although I had more questions, I felt I had more insight into God’s way of seeing things and familiarity with Sacred Scripture. Continue reading
Peter originally wrote First Peter as a circular letter (which is what “encyclical” means) to a group of churches in Asia Minor in the first century. Their world passed away long ago, but this bright yet sober letter continues to speak to us as the living word of God twenty centuries later. First Peter speaks to us in at least four distinct ways. Continue reading
This Sunday’s first reading from the prophet Malachi contains a sharp rebuke of priests for causing “many to falter by [their] instruction.” If we read the context, we discover that the problem was with the whole people, not only with the priests, and that the crisis Israel faced bears many similarities to that which the Church is facing today. Continue reading