Friday, April 28, 2017

Boersma, Scripture as Real Presence

I am tempted to think that it might be helpful to speak of the Bible as sacramental and to that end I have just started reading

Hans Boersma, Scripture as Real Presence: Sacramental Exegesis in the Early Church (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, 2017)

I thought I might just share a few bits:

“a reading of Scripture as Scripture, that is to say, as the book of that church that is meant as a sacramental guide on the journey of salvation” (p.xii)

“the overall argument of the book, namely, that the church fathers were deeply invested in reading the Old Testament Scriptures as a sacrament, whose historical basis or surface level participates in the mystery of the New Testament reality of the Christ event. The underlying message of my argument is that this sacramental approach to reading the Scriptures is of timeless import and that it is worthy of retrieval today.” (p.xiii)

The chapter headings hospitable reading, harmonious reading etc. “In each case, I attempt to show that the kind of reading discussed in that chapter is sacramental in nature. In other words, I attempt to show how it is that the hospitable reading, harmonious reading, and so on, all give some indication of what it means for biblical reading to be sacramental in character.” (p.xiii)

 Henri de Lubac: “The entire New Testament is a great mystery hidden within this sacrament, or signifies by means of this sacrament which is the Old Testament.” De Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, 22. See also Boersma, Novelle Thelogie, 149-90. (p.xiii)

“The weakness of historical exegesis, however, is that it doesn’t treat the Old Testament as a sacrament (sacramentum) that already contains the New Testament reality (res) of Christ.” (p.xv)

The real presence of Christ in the OT (p.xv)

 “While in some way believers today may be separated from the Old Testament by several millennia, they are also actually present in the hidden dimension of the Old Testament. If Christ is genuinely present in the Old Testament, then believers – who are “in Christ” – are as well. Because believers are “in Christ”, when they locate his real presence in the Old Testament, they also find their own lives and realities reflected there.” (p.xv)

 Chapter 1. Patristic Reading: The Church Fathers on Sacramental Reading of Scripture (p1ff)

 Scripture as Sacrament

 Main argument that the church fathers saw the Scriptures as sacramental and read them accordingly (p1)

 “I have long been convinced that the notion of sacrament should not be limited to the ecclesial rites of baptism and Eucharist. My Christian Platonist convictions persuade me that everything around us is sacramental, in the sense that everything God has created both points to him and makes him present. Robin Parry, in his recent book The Biblical Cosmos, makes exactly this point, arguing that for the Old Testament everything in creation is in some way sacramental.” (p1)

Everything participates in God’s life (p1)

“To be sure, we need to make a distinction between such “general” sacramentality and the sacraments of the church.” (p2) – cf. general and special revelation, nature and grace, church and the world

 Note 2, p2, possible objection: “if everything is a sacrament, then nothing is a sacrament.” – distinction not separation, centrality of grace through church, Eucharist

“Saint Augustine uses the term [sacrament] to describe liturgical feasts (such as Easter and Pentecost), ecclesial rites (including exorcisms and penance), worship activities (singing, reading, prayer, the sign of the cross, bowing of the head), and objects used in church (such as penitential garments, the font, and salt). [Cutrone, “Sacraments”, p742]. Moreover, he regularly refers to scriptural texts as sacramenta, much as I will do throughout this book. [Dodara, Christ and the Just Society, 147-59]

Baptism and Supper still unique

“the early church’s fluidity with regard to the term “sacrament” is helpful in reminding us that God uses not only baptism and Eucharist but also many other activities, rites, objects, people, and celebrations to fill the church’s saints with grace. It wouldn’t seem out of place, therefore, to add to Augustine’s list of ecclesial sacraments the Scriptures themselves. Holy Scripture too is a sacrament, in as much as it renders Christ present to us” (p2)

“I usually refer to this Christian Platonist understanding of reality [a participatory view of the relationship between nature and the supernatural or between visible and invisible things] as “sacramental ontology,” by which I mean that eternal realities are really present in visible things.” (p12)

“… we can see this sacramental ontology at work in patristic biblical interpretation. My main argument… will be that patristic exegesis treated the letter of the Old Testament text (what Origen called the manifesta, and what in sacramental language we may call the sacramentum) as containing the treasure of a “hidden” meaning (the occulta mentioned above, or the reality or res in sacramental discourse), which one can discover in and through God’s salvific self-revelation in Jesus Christ.” (p12)

“This book will make clear that the church fathers were convinced of a close (participatory) link between this-worldly sacrament (sacramentum) and otherworldly reality (res). For the church fathers, the hidden presence of the reality was finally revealed as the fullness of time, in the Christ event – along with everything that this event entails: Christ’s own person and work; the church’s origin; the believers’ new, Spirit-filled lives in Christ; and the eschatological renewal of all things in and through Christ. The church fathers saw this entire new-covenant reality as the hidden treasure already present in the Old Testament. In other words, the reason the church fathers practiced typology, allegory, and so on is that they were convinced that the reality of the Christ event was already present (sacramentally) within the history described within the Old Testament narrative. To speak of a sacramental hermeneutic, therefore, is to allude to the recognition of the real presence of the new Christ-reality hidden within the outward sacrament of the biblical text.” (p12)

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