Page 6, 18th September 1964

18th September 1964
Page 6
Page 6, 18th September 1964 — A PATH THROUGH THE JUNGLE
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A PATH THROUGH THE JUNGLE

UOR the student of the history and development of Christian theology, the beginning of the 4th century has been a watershed. Looking forward in time from that point there's a long way to go, much to encounter on the way and certain patches where the road itself bifurcates bewilderingly and there is doubt which path to follow. But. by and large. the territory is mapped and there are paths; on the whole it's down-hill work.

In contrast, the territory on the other side in time resembles• nothing so much as a pathless jungle. Approaching it from the more familiar terrain of New Testament times. one is lured on by many a fragrant flower or melodious voice culled or recorded, often enough. from the literature of the early Church. But very soon, with the best will in the world, one finds oneself hemmed in; there's no path visible, the clue to progress seams to have been lost, it's very up-hill work indeed. It is this jungle that Pere Danielou attempts to clear and map for us in his history of early Christian doctrine prior to Nicaea, the first part of which is now appearing in English with the title The Theology of Jewish Christianity, the second part dealing with the more familiar Hellenistic Christian theology, This first English volume, however, should be particularly welcome. We do not lack guides into the world of the' pre-Nicaean Hellenistic tradition, though not many are as readable as Pere Danielou; but "Jewish" Christanity is a closed book for most of us.

For instance. most of us in our ignorance would assume from the title that this book deals wholly with "heresies". But it doesn't, it deals mainly with what was the sole tradition of orthodox reflection on the deposit of faith in the Church's earliest days and which is the clue in turn to much that is obscure in the more familiar later tradition.

This is really an essential book for anyone wishing to understand the beginnings of the development of Christian theology. A great deal of work has been done in this field in very recent times, but our author is unrivalled both in his omnivorous acquaintance with the literature ancient and modern and in his power to organise the data. One may not always agree with him in details, but one remains grateful for this handsome (and improved) English version of a path-breaking book.

R.T.

The New Testament of W. C. van Unnik is simply written and has much to commend it. Impressive is the way in which a scholar of international reputation (perhaps because he has ministered in the Dutch Reformed Church), can so write as to be understood of all and talk down to no one.

The book goes from the background of the New Testament to its principal figure, Jesus Christ, first in himself and then in the proclamation of his kingdom, which in turn is shown growing in Acts, Epistles and Apocalypse. Ten pages are given to a summary of St. Paul's teaching (138-148), and this in itself is an achievement.

A wide-awake Catholic reader will here and there find a statement which needs to be qualified. as when we are told that Jesus was 'On a unique sense the Son of God". Then there is a reference to a hill called Golgotha (p. 89) where the text simply says place; and to the earth which produces fruit of itself, automatoos (sic, p. 128) for automate of the original.

R.P.

The interesting and useful book of Jean Cadet, How the Catholic Church Works, not only describes how the Church works, how it is organised visibly, but also summarises some of the responsible criticism that has been made in recent years of certain aspects of the visible organisation and administration, so that we may see ways and places in which to expect some changes in the future. This is important. because too often lately have there been changes when people have not been sufficiently prepared. It is a pity that the translator did not adatSt parts of the book which are more interesting to French readers than to English, and give a description of more of the English scene. It is also a pity that the author should think fit to perpetuate the idea that a bishop is called a pontiff "because he builds a bridge between earth and heaven". There are senses in which this statement is very confusing if true. and at least one sense in which it is false.

The reviewer's copy of this book began to disintegrate before he was half-way through it. It is to be hoped that other copies are better bound.

Eddie Doherty's King of Sinners has very little to recommend it besides a deep love and reverence for God, his Son and things and persons holy. But this is not by itself enough to make a good book. nor is it an excuse for writing sickly, cloying sentiments couched in the cliches of popular Piety.

It is no compliment to Our Lady and St. Joseph to portray them as sugar dolls, and no service to Christian spirituality to identify it with morose sentimental selfindulgence. Even making allowance for pious hyperbole, the descriptions of Joseph and Mary could not he descriptions of real people at all. they remind one of the heroes and heroines of mediaeval romance. or rather the preRaphaelite versions of them.

It really is about time that Christian art and literature began to look for beauty in truth, in reality,. rather than in the farfetched flights of emasculate dreams: and to begin to express themselves in twentieth century idiom. A Force in the World: a Tribute to the Apostolate of the Present Day, is written by James P. Forrestal] to mark the golden jubilee of the foundation of the Congregation of St. Paul. ft is a brief life of its founder. Fr. James Alberione, and an account of the work of the various institutes and societies incorporated with it in its apostolate of the media of masscommit ni cation, can think of few apostolates important as this today,

as im when

we are besieged with political propaganda, sex-linked alvertisements. and all the manipulative techniques that unscrupulous publicity men can devise.

It would he a highly meritorious work to become acquainted with the. work of the Society of St. Paul, to aid it in any way one can. I would suggest sending an offering to Langley, and asking for a copy of this little booklet.

C.I.




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