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Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI [Hardcover]

Scott Hahn
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 2009
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's election as Pope Benedict XVI brought a world-class biblical theologian to the papacy. There is an intensely biblical quality to his pastoral teaching and he has demonstrated a keen concern for the authentic interpretation of sacred Scripture.

Here a foremost interpreter of Catholic thought and life offers a probing look at Benedict's biblical theology and provides a clear and concise introduction to his life and work. Bestselling author and theologian Scott Hahn argues that the heart of Benedict's theology is salvation history and the Bible and shows how Benedict accepts historical criticism but recognizes its limits. The author also explains how Benedict reads the overall narrative of Scripture and how he puts it to work in theology, liturgy, and Christian discipleship.

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From the Inside Flap

"Hahn here renders an important service in so clearly setting forth the hermeneutical principles, biblical framework, and doctrinal positions of Pope Benedict XVI, arguably the world's most important contemporary theologian. The parallels between the biblical theology of the pope and of evangelicals, together with their respective attempts to interpret Scripture theologically in an age marked by modern biblical criticism, are particularly fascinating."--Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Wheaton College and Graduate School

"A compelling manuduction right into the very core of Pope Benedict XVI's theological vision. In this clearly written and cogently argued essay, Hahn makes a convincing and highly pertinent case for what Pope Benedict holds to be the crucial challenge for the Church and theology today--the reunification, and thereby the renewal, of exegesis theologically conceived and theology exegetically grounded. Theologically insightful and surefooted, this book is one of the best and certainly the most timely and urgent among the recent introductions to the theology of Pope Benedict XVI."--Reinhard Hütter, Duke Divinity School

"As a Protestant biblical scholar, I found Hahn's exposition of Pope Benedict's biblical theology both informative and inspiring. In spite of differences, Protestants need to read this book to understand how deeply we can agree on the primacy of Christ and the Word. Through Hahn, I have a new appreciation for the mind and heart of Pope Benedict."--Tremper Longman III, Westmont College

"This lucid exposition introduces the reader to Benedict's understanding of historical criticism, faith and reason, typology, covenant, sacrifice, liturgy, and a variety of other topics. The book beautifully models what for Pope Benedict is the central task of theology: it leads believers into a real participation in the mystery of faith."--Hans Boersma, Regent College

"This is essential reading for any informed Catholic. I have been waiting for someone to expand and bring together the conclusion that Pope Benedict XVI brings to us in his powerful book Jesus of Nazareth. This is a very important book for all Catholics, clergy, religious, and laity alike."--Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR

"This is an extraordinary book. More than an introduction to Ratzinger/Benedict's theology--although it is this as well--Hahn's marvelous book provides an introduction to biblical exegesis, Catholic theology, and ultimately to the life of discipleship itself. This is a book for all readers, a rich feast of spiritual and intellectual transformation."--Matthew Levering, University of Dayton

"Even when one disagrees with some of his conclusions, Benedict's insights, as well as his engagement with critical scholarship, offer a wealth of reflection. In this remarkable book, Hahn has drawn out the central themes of Benedict's teaching in a highly readable summary. An eminently useful guide for introducing the thought of an important theologian of our time."--Michael S. Horton, Westminster Seminary California

From the Back Cover

"Leading men and women to God, to the God who speaks in the Bible: this is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and of the Successor of Peter at the present time."--Pope Benedict XVI

"A superb introduction to the way in which the theology of Pope Benedict XVI has been shaped by the Bible. Scott Hahn's crisp and clear analysis puts the reader at the very center of this remarkable pope's thought."--Gary Anderson, University of Notre Dame

"The increasingly painful bankruptcy of the historical-critical method in our time has created a vacuum precisely at the point where the living Church requires substantial nurture. Pope Benedict XVI has spoken into this crisis like no one else, and his best expositor, Scott Hahn, has done us a tremendous service by synthesizing Benedict's erudite and prayerful biblical theology into a lively, readable, and intellectually reliable conspectus. This excellent volume will be indispensable for all Christians who seek to be more maturely grounded in Scripture."--David Lyle Jeffrey, Baylor University

"A lucidly written and trenchant study of the biblical theology of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict. Hahn shows how one of the most important theologians of the twentieth century gently but firmly corrected the historical critics who dominate much of contemporary academic Scripture study. Hahn further demonstrates how, in making this correction, Ratzinger/Benedict allowed for the recovery of much of the richness of patristic biblical interpretation. This is a beautiful and thought-provoking text, one that will prove helpful to any serious student of the sacred page."--Robert Barron, Mundelein Seminary, University of St. Mary of the Lake

"In the growing body of literature on the theology of Benedict XVI, there is a conspicuously missing theme: the consciously biblical character of the pontiff's theology. Hahn places Ratzinger/Benedict's concern for theology as a scriptural--and hence a liturgical--activity center stage with the verve and clarity we have come to expect from him. Hahn uses his encyclopedic knowledge of Ratzinger/Benedict's corpus to tease out many threads, weaving them into a compelling account of the new hermeneutic at the heart of Benedict's vision. Not only students of the pope but also all of us who desire the revitalization of theology and exegesis should welcome the passion and insight that Hahn has brought to bear on his subject."--Lewis Ayres, Durham University

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and Concise Feb. 2 2012
By Azalea
Format:Hardcover
A good and light read if you want to find out about the essence of Pope Benedict's theology. This book should be of interest to every Catholic and those who would like to know more about the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI. A good gift idea at a good price.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Introduction to a great mind's Biblical worldview Nov. 16 2009
By J. Gibbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Like most of us, I'm too busy to read even a fraction of what Benedict XVI has written, before and after he became Pope. But I'm very interested to know what he thinks and why. I converted from Evangelical Protestantism in 2001, and understanding the current Pope's approach to the scriptures is extremely important to me. For my money, this book is just "a good read" and a great value. I not only learned what Benedict believes and why, but my own understanding of the bible and my Christian faith have been greatly enriched. The following quote from David Lyle Jeffrey of Baylor University on the dust jacket says what I think better than I can say it: "Scott Hahn has done us a tremendous service by synthesizing Benedict's erudite and prayerful biblical theology into a lively, readable and intellectually reliable conspectus. This excellent volume will be indispensable for all Christians who seek to be more maturely grounded in Scripture."
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr. Hahn's New Book of Pope Benedict's Biblical Theology Jan. 18 2010
By Taylor Marshall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is fantastic. Dr. Scott Hahn describes the rich theological method of Pope Benedict XVI as a canonical approach to theology, which locates theology within the history of salvation. If John Paul II will be remembered for his Theology of the Body, then I'll wager that Benedict XVI will be remembered for his profound biblical theology.

Hahn's presentation will likely resonate with conservative Evangelicals and Protestants who have a love for Sacred Scripture. Hahn reveals Benedict as a biblical theologian par excellence. This has been noted before, but Hahn demonstrates the Holy Father's biblical theology in detail with seven academic essays collected together in this one volume. Hahn also quotes the Holy Father's writings frequently (several times per page) making this book a fine collection of the Holy Father's teaching in his own words. I have already collected a dozen priceless Benedict quotes from this book. It is a great resource.

I especially appreciated the following two chapters:

Chapter Two: The Critique of Criticism: Beginning the Search for a New Theological Synthesis
Chapter Six: The Theology of the Divine Economy: Covenant, Kingdom, and the History of Salvation

If you're a fan of Pope Benedict or if you're a non-Catholic interested in how Catholics do biblical theology, then this is the book for you.
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful presentation of our Holy Father's theological project Nov. 25 2009
By Francis J. Beckwith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I picked up this book 10 days ago while I was at a conference at the University of Notre Dame. I began reading it yesterday and could not put it down. It is the clearest, and yet most detailed, presentation of Pope Benedict's theology I have ever read. It certainly helps that Scott W. Hahn is an outstanding writer who has plumbed the depths of Pope Benedict's body of work.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about what the Bishop of Rome thinks about Scripture and theology and their relationship to the life of the Church and its witness in the world.

(reviewer is author of Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic)
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scott Hahn on "Covenant and Communion" by Pope Benedict XVI May 27 2010
By Claude-Michael Wecke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In order to properly comment on the "Covenant and Communion", it is essential to establish author Scott Hahn's impressive credentials, in order to put his work on Pope Benedict's biblical theology into the appropriate perspective. Here an excerpt from WikipediA:

Hahn received his B.A. in 1979 from Grove City College in Pennsylvania with a triple major of theology, philosophy, and economics (magna cum laude). He obtained his M.Div. (summa cum laude) from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1982. In May 1995, he was awarded a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Marquette University (Phi Beta Kappa). His dissertation, entitled Kinship by Covenant: A Biblical Theological Analysis of Covenant Types and Texts in the Old and New Testaments, is a significant example of contemporary covenantal theology.

In the book "Covenant and Communion" Hahn provides us with an eminently readable introduction into the very core of of Pope Benedict's theological vision. It also elucidates the Pope's view on historical criticism, faith and reason, covenant, liturgy and a variety of other topics. Possibly the most important aspect of Hahn's book was the introductory chapter "Ignorance of the Scripture is Ignorance of Christ". For Pope Benedict the Church lives and "takes its being" from the Word of God. Here, with Scott Hahn's exposition on Pope Benedict's book, we have but one example of one of the world's finest theological minds.

All in all,Hahn's succinct summary of a range of Pope Benedict's theological themes, makes this book of relevance to all Christians, leading them into a deeper reflection of modern theological thought as proposed by Pope Benedict XVI. As a non-Roman Catholic, and not necessarily agreeing with everything, I highly recommend "Covenant and Communion" to clergy and laiety alike.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The heavens declare the glory of God Feb. 10 2011
By Stratiotes Doxha Theon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Pope Benedict XVI (Josef Ratzinger) has stated that he is not a systematic theologian. His theology is a biblical theology that does not lend itself easily to systemization into a series of lesser truths leading to more complex ideas. All the ideas are intertwined into a whole with each part dependent on all other parts. Few have taken on the task of systematizing such thought so successfully as has Professor Hahn in this little book.

Fr. Ratzinger has been a champion of the challenge to historical-critical methods that, when used exclusively, reduce the interpretation of scripture to merely a series of hypothesis, none of which bring us any closer to knowing what the scripture teaches us. He has shown us convincingly that historical-critical methods alone will lead us down a road to agnosticism and practical atheism. But in addition to leading us to a shipwrecked faith it also does not deliver what it promises - it fails to give us a satisfactory understanding of scripture.

From this thinking we come to an epistemology of faith as a legitimate way of knowing. There is no true dialectic or dichotomy of faith or reason. It is not faith-or-reason but faith-and-reason that leads to the most satisfying hermeneutic.

Context. All theology is nothing more than interpretation. And interpretation is based on presuppositions the interpreter carries into his trade. Those presuppositions depend on the context in which he is forming his trade - Church, tradition, liturgy. This context is what gives the scripture their living relevance to us through history. Removing scripture from the context in which it was formed removes our ability to understand it. For this reason, the principle of scripture alone is doomed to the assumptions of historical-criticism.

Taking all these factors into account, he goes on to describe how Pope Benedict XVI has shown the need and legitimacy of the literal, historical, allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses of scripture. Pope Benedict XVI refers to the four senses hermeneutic as "the four degrees of exegesis" and espouses the typological approach to scripture as one of the normative approaches to relate old and new testaments into a coherent whole. This is one of the clearest examples of how faith and reason work together in the hands of the biblical theologian. This ancient interpretative model has been discounted by many as subjective to the whims of the interpreter and therefore of no value. And here is where context is related to the question in that the interpreter is not left to the whims of his fancies but is guided by the context of liturgy, analogy of faith, and authority of the Church to the interpretation that matches the traditions handed down from the early fathers.

Fr. Ratzinger's understanding of covenant goes beyond the mere legal contract between two parties. It is not a legal contract but the creation of a familial bond. This is the significance of the blood in the old and new testaments where God, through his condescension to mankind, declares that his blood is now our blood - we are not merely his legal wards but his children.

In addition to challenging the faith/reason dichotomy, Fr. Ratzinger also takes aim at Martin Luther's false dichotomy of law and gospel and asserts instead that they are both part of the same consistent story of God's approach to mankind. All of history is part of the story of salvation. Indeed, all creation declares this history and culminates at the cross. All of history, therefore, is truly understood only in light of the cross.

Any work such as this explaining the core teachings of a mind such as the theological giant of Josef Ratzinger, is going to require more than a book of less than 200 pages. However, Professor Hahn has boiled down some of the essentials you will want if you wish to plumb those theological depths yourself. This is a roadmap to a much larger world. In addition, you will find that much of what is contained in this little work is expounded a great deal in the Letter & Spirit series - some of which have the same titles as chapters in this book. See Letter & Spirit, Vol. 1: Word, Worship, and the Mysteries (Letter & Spirit: A Journal of Catholic Biblical Theology), Letter & Spirit, Vol. 2: The Authority of Mystery: The Word of God and the People of God (A Journal of Catholic Biblical Theology), Letter & Spirit, Vol. 3: The Hermeneutic of Continuity: Christ, Kingdom, and Creation (Letter & Spirit: A Journal of Catholic Biblical Theology), Letter & Spirit, Vol. 4: Temple and Contemplation: God's Presence in the Cosmos, Church, and Human Heart (A Journal of Catholic Biblical Theology) and Letter & Spirit, Vol. 5: Liturgy and Empire: Faith in Exile and Political Theology.
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