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July 2009
Wednesday, 01 July 2009 00:00

The first article in the current issue, by Michael Tait, revisits Matthew’s story of the magi, to challenge a long-established interpretation – popularised by Prudentius’ hymn ‘Bethlehem, of noblest cities’ – according to which the gift of myrrh prefigures Christ’s death and burial. In his rich survey of biblical and other Jewish antecedents, Tait argues that the funerary associations of myrrh are rare, and offers other more plausible interpretations of this gift to the Christ-child. Subscribers to Scripture Bulletin have often expressed appreciation for its commitment to keeping them abreast with developments in contemporary biblical studies.

In what it is hoped will be the first in a series of ‘What are they saying about…?’ articles, Richard Ounsworth OP offers a wideranging survey of recent scholarly literature on the Letter to the Hebrews. He opens up for readers a number of the new avenues Hebrews scholars are exploring, revisits the state of play on some older issues, and offers his own informative and incisive assessment.

In the final article, Henry Wansbrough OSB introduces the background to, and contents of, the latest document of the Pontifical Commission, on the subject of the Bible and Morality. Particularly illuminating is his examination of the six biblical criteria for moral reflection with which the document concludes. These, Wansbrough suggests, might be better regarded as five criteria and one principle of discernment, the latter concerned with the application of the earlier criteria in specific situations.

As the accompanying letter explains, this July issue will be the last issue of Scripture Bulletin in its current paper format. The Editorial Board hopes that our readers will continue to enjoy the benefits of the journal in its new free on-line format.

Ian Boxall, Editor

Wednesday, 01 July 2009 00:00

The Visit of the Wise Men (public domain)Michael Tait holds the Licence in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the PhD from the University of Manchester

Popularised by Prudentius, the traditional threefold significance of the gifts of the Magi has a long history going back at least as far as Irenaeus. But does it go back to Matthew? His Infancy Narrative is pervaded with quotations from and allusions to the Old Testament. Yet the latter never shows any interest in the funerary significance of myrrh. Rather it shows myrrh as a commodity so precious that it is frequently associated with royalty. This fits in with the emphasis in Matthew 1-2 on Jesus as the 'king of the Jews'. However, the Old Testament also shows myrrh being used in sacral and erotic contexts. Under the ruling significance of kingship, therefore, the gifts may have other levels of meaning: priest, God, and, in the case of myrrh, lover.

Wednesday, 01 July 2009 00:00

Richard Ounsworth OP teaches Scripture at Blackfriars, Oxford. His current research is on the Letter to the Hebrews.

The Letter to the Hebrews continues to be relatively neglected among both academic and more popular works on the books of the New Testament. A glance through any issue of New Testament Abstracts will indicate that, while it garners more interest than, say, the Petrine Epistles or Jude, it receives far less attention than any of the Pauline Corpus, the Gospels or the Apocalypse, whether absolutely speaking or relative to its length.

Wednesday, 01 July 2009 00:00

Henry Wansbrough is a monk of Ampleforth. He has been Chairman of the Faculty of Theology at Oxford University, and served on the Pope’s Biblical Commission for eleven years. He is General Editor of The New Jerusalem Bible, and has written a number of books on biblical subjects.

The Pontifical Biblical Commission had felt for some time that it would be opportune to make some statement about the use of the Bible in moral teaching. After all, the teaching of the Church should be founded on the Bible as understood in the tradition of the Church. But what has the Bible to say on the burning moral questions of the day? It is striking that, while in modern parlance of today ‘morals’ and ‘morality’ refers almost exclusively to sexual morality, the Bible is seldom even mentioned on such issues. Is not the church’s teaching on sexual ethics founded on the Bible? What has the Bible to say on the wider questions of medical ethics, questions from birth control to euthanasia, questions about social inequality, about war, about responsible government and the rights of individuals? Already at the quinquennial renewal of half the membership the moral teaching of the Bible had been proposed as a possible topic of study, but in the end the Commission decided to respond to the Pope’s request for something on Judaism, in preparation for his proposed visit to the Holy Land. So in 2001 a report The Jewish People and its Sacred Writings in the Christian Bible was produced.

Reviews & Notices
Wednesday, 01 July 2009 00:00

Reviews by David Allen, Thomas O'Loughlin, Martin O'Kane, Mary E. Mills, Colin Fortune, Patricia M. McDonald, SHCJ, Henry Wansbrough, Susan E. Docherty, and Nicholas King SJ

Books reviewed this issue:

The Use of the Old Testament in Hebrews: A Case Study in Early Jewish Bible Interpretation.

Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries.

How Contemporary Novelists Rewrite Stories From the Bible

1 and 2 Chronicles

Daughter Zion Talks back to the Prophets. A Dialectic Theology of the Book of Lamentations

Boundless Love: The Parable of the Prodigal Son and Reconciliation.

Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics.

Q, the Earliest Gospel.

The Assumed Authorial Unity of Luke and Acts. A Reassessment of the Evidence.

The Healer from Nazareth: Jesus’ Miracles in Historical Context.