Here’s a book review by guest blogger and catechist Christian LeBlanc. Christian is author of The Bible Tells Me So–a charming and enlightening book to help catechists communicate the faith using the Bible stories. He blogs at Smaller Manhattans.
Americans of course remember that we won our War of Independence at Yorktown in 1781, ending a long and formal relationship with the British Crown. But the Constitution didn’t go into effect until 1789; how did the newly-United States manage while a new model was being worked out and authoritatively written down? And how about after World War 1: empires swept away, assorted tribes each wanting an independent state of its own. Who will succeed? Who will fail? Who says?
I’ve always been fascinated by such periods of coalescing that lie between an old way of thinking, or governing, or living; and a new way. For Christians, the most compelling example of those times of flux would be that of the Early Church: the centuries between Pentecost, and the closing of the Canon of the New Testament. I’ve had some vague sense that the oral teaching authority of the Apostles and their appointed successors spanned those many years, and that they weren’t bumping into each other and pratfalling like Keystone Kops. But in particular, what did the typically illiterate Christian believe? How did they learn the faith? Were there only “Old Testament” readings on Sunday? What Scriptures would Bereans ‘diligently search’ in 120 A.D.? I had no idea.
Well, I had no idea until I read Scott Hahn’s recent book, Consuming the Word: The New Testament and The Eucharist in the Early Church. It’s not so much a book on apologetics as it is a story; you know, more like a Gospel than an Epistle. Not quite a reflection; but like reflections, it’s a gentle read that communicates a certain amount of academic information without seeming academic. The reader will meet some Church Fathers; learn some conceptual stuff about a few (really, just a few) Greek and Latin words; read bits of letters; watch the Church collate a new batch of Scriptures, that is, writings; and attend the Eucharistic celebration on the New Sabbath (Sunday) with early Christians. As it turns out, going to Mass had a whole lot to do with how and why the Church assembled and authorized a written “New Testament;” and decided there should be a New Testament at all. Hahn shows that Catholic distinctives such as the literal understanding of John 6 and apostolic authority were critical to sustaining and defining the Church through that time of flux; and that those same traits support worldwide Christianity (not just Catholicism) until today.
Because the story unwinds like a mystery, I don’t want to give away any of the plot. At 150 pages the book isn’t long. I wouldn’t call it an easy read, but you don’t have to be a closet apologist or polyglot to enjoy it.
Check out Chapter 1 here:
In my opinion the rest of the book is better than Chapter 1. The publisher doesn’t want to give the plot away, either.
Consuming the Word is published at the end of this month.