By Laura Thierry
“What is Scripture and what is its purpose?” Such are the two questions that sit at the heart of Daniel Castelo and Robert W. Wall’s stimulating volume, The Marks of Scripture: Rethinking the Nature of the Bible. Written against the backdrop of a Protestant scholarly world that has often split Biblical exegesis and Theological reflection into separate and compartmentalized worlds, Castelo (a theologian) and Wall (a Biblical scholar) seek to put forth a fresh vision for a theology of Scripture and its implications for its practice in the Church.
The first question “What is Scripture?” brings to the fore ontological questions about “Scripture’s identity and essence” (1). Castelo and Wall answer these through a discussion of Scripture as Canon – a category that places the relationship of Scripture to history, the people of God, and the Spirit of God at the centre. That is, “it has the advantage of being a theological category that prominently involves both anthropological and pneumatological dimensions” (3).
The second question, “What is the purpose of Scripture?” – the teleological question – defines Scripture as a “means of grace”, placing our discussion of Scripture again at the heart of the work of the Spirit, the role of the Church, and the process of salvation and sanctification. Thus, if you haven’t yet noticed, one of the great strengths of Castelo and Wall’s model is that it is determinedly systematic and interconnected in its method and outlook.
This fresh hypothesis they go on to expound in the following four chapters, one each dedicated to analyzing the four ‘Marks of the Church’ as laid forth in the Nicene Creed: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, as they are understood as bearing fresh, analogous light on a doctrine of Scripture. It is in these sections that the fruitful collaboration between Biblical scholar and theologian shines forth most brightly through the intermingling of rich biblical insight and constructive theological work.
The final chapter brings all the pieces together as their theological vision for understanding Scripture as “canon” and “means of grace” is worked out into a formational curriculum for the life of the Church. It is in this section that they address the “larger-scale question” of the “intellectual and spiritual formation of faithful readers…of the cultivation of intellectual and spiritual virtues, intellectual and spiritual senses, intellectual and spiritual practices” (141).
As such, this book could serve as a useful resource for those thinking and working at the nexus of Biblical exegesis and community formation through the power of the Spirit: e.g. this is the kind of theology, that, while being academically rich I character, belongs in its heart to the life of the Church. And as such, this book can serve as a gift to the academy in urging them to ‘think Church’, and a gift to the Church enabling them to ‘learn from the gifts of the academy’. Overall, The Marks of Scripture: Rethinking the Nature of the Bible is a stimulating and fresh read.
Laura Thierry a PhD student at Ridley College, researching medieval hagiography, Christology, and theology of the body.