April/May/June 2020

Alive in God: A Christian Imagination

Timothy Radcliffe
ISBN: 978-1472970206
Bloomsbury Continuum 2019
Paperback 432 pp £12.99
Pastoral Review bookshop £11.70


In Alive in God, Timothy Radcliffe addresses the subject of the Christian imagination in today’s modern world.

The book is written in four sections – Imagination, Journeying, Teaching, and The Risen Life – and includes imaginatively written chapter titles (such as ‘Wingless and Three-Legged Chickens’ and ‘The Non-Violent Imagination’) which intrigue and encourage the reader. Radcliffe makes a point of using comprehensible language, making this a versatile tome for both the lay reader and the more-academically minded.

Radcliffe’s writing has a conversational stream-of-consciousness style, giving readers the impression of being directly addressed by a man who genuinely wants to engage with them. Anecdotal interjections and personal reflections pair well with the more detailed theological analysis also offered, and the clever blend of quotations from religious and secular literature makes a convincing argument for Christianity’s relevance in today’s world.

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Human Dignity in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant Perspectives

John Loughlin
ISBN: 978-1350073692
Bloomsbury 2019 Hardback 304 pp £85.00
Pastoral Review bookshop £76.50

Occasionally a book appears which clearly, from the first moment you open it, shows itself to have made a significant contribution to the area it covers. Across the whole field of Catholic Social Teaching, and equivalent traditions in other churches, the concept of ‘human dignity’ has become in recent years a watchword: this impressive volume testifies to the value of the concept but also enables us to think critically and deeply about what we actually mean by the phrase. Professor Loughlin has drawn together for this collection a very impressive field of international scholars from a wide variety of disciplines; the achievement of the book is that although it looks at first sight like a collection of conference papers, while meetings and conferences were part of the background, this is a fresh collection which must have made the formation of a coherent vision by the editor a formidable task. This is a very significant volume which should become a standard text in the field.

In his introduction, Loughlin sets out the debate, and the ways in which some philosophers have rejected the whole idea, and what the different contributors try to achieve; the breadth of the backgrounds of the authors is particularly striking. John Day (Oxford) rightly begins with the Scriptures: what do we mean when we say humanity is created in God’s image? Is it physical, spiritual, functional or (as Barth taught) reciprocal (in terms of the male–female relationship). Those who have to preach on the Scriptures should find this chapter particularly helpful.

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No One is Too Small to Make a Difference

Greta Thunberg
ISBN: 978-0141991740
Penguin, 2019
Paperback 80 pp £2.99
Pastoral Review bookshop £2.70


This year sees the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, the first papal letter focused explicitly and in detail on environmental issues, particularly the crisis of climate change. The tone of the letter was and is urgent, which is why it is disturbing that within the Catholic community, after the first initial months of interest (and indeed opposition from some quarters) awareness of what the Holy Father was saying has probably receded among most Catholics. But the crisis remains and has arguably got worse, so other figures joining the Pope in his urgent call to the world to change are important, and of these the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg has rapidly become the most significant. She has been particularly inspirational to young people, encouraging demonstrations and school strikes to emphasise the urgency of the situation. In many ways she is a disturbing figure – and that is what the world needs.

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Quezon’s Game

ABS-CBN Europe Ltd
125 minutes

'Could I have done more?’ asks Manuel Quezon as he and his wife Aurora watch the haunting footage from the newly liberated concentration camps in Europe after the end of the Second World War. Matthew Rosen’s remarkable debut film Quezon’s Game takes us a long way away from Europe, to the Philippines. It tells a little-known episode in the history of the twentieth century: the rescue of 1,200 German and Austrian Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazis in 1938.

Manuel Quezon, president of the soon-to-be-independent Philippines, is at the centre of the story. It is his friend Alex Frieder, a cigar merchant and part of colonial society, who approaches him with the disturbing news about the situation of the Jews in Nazi Germany and Austria. Something has to be done and someone needs to do it. Quezon enlists General McArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower, who is charged with building a Philippine army. A plan is made. Yet the obstacles seem insurmountable.

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The Diaconate in Ecumenical Perspective: Ecclesiology, Liturgy and Practice

D. Michael Jackson
ISBN: 978-1789590357
Sacristy Press 2019
Paperback 216 pp £19.99
Pastoral Review bookshop £18.00


This excellent volume of articles is the fruit of an international conference on the deacon’s ministry held in Canada in May 2018. As an ecumenical exploration of diaconate, the contributors paint a diverse landscape which includes the Episcopal and Anglican Churches, the Methodists, Lutherans, the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The UK perspective is captured by Anglican Deacon Rosalind Brown who tackles the vexed question of the distinctiveness of the deacon’s ministry over and against ‘the Russian Doll’ model of sacred orders whereby inside every bishop is a priest, inside of whom is a deacon. The transitional diaconate is perceived as no more than a stepping-stone to higher orders and entails ordination to a ministry to which the candidate has not felt called. This downgrades the permanent diaconate to an inferior order, an ecclesiastical reality evident in the Roman Catholic Church when bishops approach bereaved widower deacons to suggest that they might now perhaps consider a vocation to the presbyterate.

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The Revised New Jerusalem Bible, Study Edition

Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB
ISBN: 978-0232533620
Darton, Longman & Todd 2019
Hardback 2399 pp £39.99
Pastoral Review bookshop £36.00

This is a remarkable piece of work, and Dom Henry has to be thanked for achieving it; we may also wish to ask him how on earth he has managed it while holding down several other demanding jobs, not least his editorship of the CTS New Catholic Bible, which is of course the intermediate ancestor of the present volume.

The origins of the Revised New Jerusalem Bible (hereinafter RNJB) lie, of course, in the 1966 Jerusalem Bible (JB); some of us can recall the queues in Oxford bookshops when it first appeared, over half a century ago. It had then an immediate impact, which it has not yet lost. The JB, of course, is the translation still used today in Catholic churches, in this country and others. It was in those days an immense revolution for people to have in their hands a new translation of the entire Bible into English, with scholarly notes to allow readers a glimpse of the context from which the biblical texts emerged. Not all of us, however, realised that the main point of the JB in the mind of its first editors was not so much the translation as the notes. Rather than offering us a fresh version of Scripture, the JB’s aim was, in the light of the recently-finished Second Vatican Council, to convey some of the richness, theological and otherwise, of the work of the Dominican scholars of the École Biblique; the aim was to give readers a sense of what was going on in the text. The translation of the text was in effect made on the basis of the French text of the Bible de Jerusalem; and it employed the ‘dynamic equivalence’ approach, which some found very disconcerting indeed. The JB’s origins go back, of course, far beyond Vatican II; for it belongs in the wake of that great encyclical of Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943), which encouraged the serious work of biblical scholarship, urging us all to learn the appropriate languages and get to grips with modern studies of the Scriptures. Since many of the scholars at the École Biblique were involved in the early days of the investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), with all they have taught us of the background from which the New Testament emerged, inevitably, and importantly, that area of study informed much of the notes that appeared in the JB.

Obviously, however, both scholarship and language move on in fifty years; we are still digesting the impact of the DSS and other advances in the academic reading of the Bible, and Christians, particularly Catholic Christians, nowadays show a greater openness to the work of contemporary biblical scholarship. A great deal has changed in our reading of the Bible, perhaps at greater pace than at any time in the history of Judaism and Christianity. Language is always changing, and for a variety of reasons, it is possible to argue that English has changed more rapidly since the JB appeared than at any time since the creative years of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. For that reason, the appearance of the RNJB is decidedly timely.

We have already indicated that the original idea of the JB was to offer the translation as a vehicle for the new scholarship. This was mainly the work of the great Alexander Jones, though he gathered around him some distinguished litterateurs and scholars (J. R. R. Tolkien, for example, and the great Anthony Kenny). The scholarly notes were, and remain, of great importance, not in order to overwhelm the reader with learning, but to give them a better chance of understanding these very diverse writings.

Traduttore, traditore, as the Italians put it, and one can always take issue with this or that translation, or to ask why this particular verse was given an explanatory note, while that (much harder one) was not; for it always seems to be precisely the verse that is hardest to understand that a translator or editor passes over in lofty silence, as though its meaning were pellucid. Perhaps more important for readers today is being forced to think about why at this point a much-loved translation has been replaced by another, less familiar, one. For that reason, every Bible reader should have at least two versions, preferably with scholarly annotations, open before them. This will serve as a reminder that every attempt at translation and every scholarly footnote has a merely provisional quality, and is not as irrevocable as the ‘laws of the Medes and the Persians’. So, for example, a biblical scholar reading the RNJB might occasionally find herself, or himself muttering, ‘well – I would not put it quite like that’ or ‘I’m not really convinced by that translation’, or ‘Why does he not say something about the maddening obscurity of that verse?’; but then complaining is what we biblical scholars do for a living, and does not detract from the merit of this translation. It is clearly a step back in the right direction that the RNJB is based, not on the French text of the Bible de Jerusalem, but on the Hebrew and the Greek. It is a praiseworthy aim always to use the same English word for the same word in the original, though my own experience suggests that it is impossible. It is excellent that the editor has tried to bring out the differences between the Synoptics; the danger of a committee translation is that they produce a kind of puréed sludge, where every author sounds just like every other author. The difficulty with this procedure, I have discovered, is that when you try to set out the Gospels synoptically, it is very difficult to reflect the Greek adequately. Like the admirable scholars who produced the King James Version, Dom Henry has opted for what you might call ‘proclaimability’, in particular abandoning the JB’s ‘broken speech’. There will be a variety of views about the propriety of translating the Hebrew word ‘almah at Isaiah 7.14 as ‘virgin’. There is in the RNJB a detectable shift towards formal rather than (as in the JB) functional or dynamic equivalence as a model for translation, and I think that is a decided advantage, although you can never get away from the question about whether a translator (and especially a biblical translator) should be attentive more to the demands of the source language than those of the target language. There is, too, a highly serviceable ‘Index to the Notes’, which enables a thematic approach to the scholarship, and will, if properly used, allow the reader a deepening acquaintance with the texts of the Bible. But all this, and the slight tension that is detectable in the attitude to inclusive language in this volume, is just part of the general point that we need to make: that translation, and especially translation of the Bible, is an extraordinarily difficult task. No translation is perfect, and the RNJB is no exception to this general rule; but it is a great gift to us all and should be widely used.

All of which, just at the present juncture, raises an important question, namely ‘what are the chances of having the RNJB as the translation of choice for Catholic churches in England and Wales, or even wider?’ For it seems to me that in comparison with other suggested versions, the RNJB has a more contemporary ring, the scholarship is more up-to-date, and the option which (for the most part) it makes for inclusive language is today an essential element in making it clear that the Bible is for everybody, not just for males. There is also, of course, the fact that we have been using the JB for half a century. This means that there will be less of a culture-shock for Catholic congregations in employing the RNJB than if we use any other suggested version. There has been for some years a widespread sense that the JB has, as they say nowadays, ‘passed its sell-by date’, and a variety of suggestions have been made about how to replace it. One idea was to put together the leading Catholic biblical scholars in a room, like the seventy who (according to legend) produced the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, until they came up with a version on which they all agreed. Another was to use the (in many ways admirable) NRSV; but that fell foul of copyright law. Most recently the suggestion has been touted of using the English Standard Version, a largely literal translation of evangelical origin (and perhaps none the worse for that); but it is hard to see how that will work for Catholic congregations today. Is it too late to plead for second thoughts, and another look at the RNJB?

Nicholas King SJ, Campion Hall, Oxford

Timothy Radcliffe ISBN: 978-1472970206 Bloomsbury Continuum 2019 Paperback 432 pp £12.99 Pastoral Review bookshop £11.70 In Alive in God, Timothy Radcliffe addresses the subject of the Christian imagination in today’s modern world. The book is written in

Candida R. Moss
ISBN: 978-0300179767
New Haven CT/London, Yale University Press 2019
Hardcover 208 pp £35.00
Pastoral Review bookshop £31.50


Candida Moss’ superb new book examines the very human question about the Christian doctrine of the general resurrection: which ‘me’ will be resurrected? As Christians we profess our faith at least weekly in the bodily resurrection at the end of time; yet, as Moss notes, there is remarkably little detail on – well – the detail and process of the resurrection in Christian Scripture and theology. This is despite the fact that the bodily resurrection of believers following in the (bodily resurrected) footsteps of Christ, is one of the cornerstones of Christian belief, attested from the earliest writings.

Moss, who is Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology at Birmingham University, is a renowned scholar of the New Testament and its reception in early Christian communities. She brings her extensive knowledge of the Christian Scriptures, apocryphal Gospels and Acts, Second Temple Jewish writings, and contemporary Graeco-Roman medical and philosophical texts to bear on the question of bodies, both earthly and resurrected, in the world of early Christianity. Yet this learning is worn lightly throughout this work, her elegant and lucid writing style making the subject matter keenly interesting to both specialist and interested reader, balancing a deeply scholarly approach with an approachable, accessible, and non-patronising style.

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Michael A. Hayes 1957 - 2017

editor

Michael A. Hayes 1957 - 2017

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Rev. Professor Michael Hayes editor of the Pastoral Review.

Many friends and readers of the Pastoral Review and The Tablet will have been shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Hayes early on Easter Saturday.   Read More

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