Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Review: Letter & Spirit Volume 7

In America, we celebrate the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving. For the most part, it is just an excuse to gorge on turkey and sides, watch football, and then fall into a food coma. Some of us make the effort to think back on the past year and give thanks for all the good things in our life. Some even go so far as to tell some version of the first Thanksgiving and think back on the people who sailed to America and helped shape the country early on. Well, why don't we do that with the people who shaped Christianity early on? These people are the Apostles, Disciples, and Church Fathers, and today I am reviewing the book Letter & Spirit Volume 7: The Bible and the Church Fathers.

For those of you not familiar with this series of books, it is an annually released Catholic academic journal, with Scott Hahn as the editor. That fact alone almost guarantees that you are getting a quality book as Scott Hahn always puts out good books, and I will say that until proven otherwise. I own the previous six volumes in this series, and they are all great. However, they are not light reading at all.

I stared at this book for days before I built up the courage to open it up. I have a great love for Patristics (writings of Early Christian Fathers and Mothers), but this book was intimidating. The book was only about 200 pages, but the article contributors included some big names, including Joseph Ratzinger (Now, Pope Benedict XVI). This is a book, if you dare read it, that you read slowly as you will find yourself drowning in its depths if you don't approach it with respect. I won't pretend to say that I understood even half of what I read, but I hope to one day be able to come back to this book with greater wisdom, and be able to grasp more.

My two favorite articles in this book were "Patristic Interpretation of Scripture within God's Story of Creation and Redemption" and "Psalm 22 in Syriac Tradition." I liked the "Patristic Interpretation" article because it reinforced and better explained how and why the Church Fathers were important for helping people, in their day and in ours, understand Scripture. I liked the "Psalm 22" article mainly because it's neat to see the Eastern take on Biblical passages. In the West, we tend to ignore anyone who isn't St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas.

This book easily gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. Generally, when I give a book 5 stars though, I recommend buying it. This time however, I am going to say caveat emptor (buyer beware). If you own the previous six volumes and found them a simple read or have a degree in Theology, then buy all means, buy this book. You will enjoy it and get more out of it than I did. If you are, however, still new in the faith or don't read a lot of Theology books, then this book will frustrate you and discourage you to no end.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Letter & Spirit, Vol. 7: The Bible and the Church Fathers. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your family Advent activities and supplies this year, such as Advent wreaths and calendars for kids, as well as Christmas decorations such as nativity scene sets and religious Christmas gifts for the whole family.