Book Review: Consuming The Word

Consuming The Word:  The New Testament And The Eucharist In The Early Churches, by Scott Hahn

My views on this book are mixed to positive.  Viewed optimistically, there is a lot that I appreciate about this book and found worthwhile.  The author discusses New Testament in a variety of ways, connecting the scriptures that we tend to call by that name to the earlier sense in which the NT Passover was the commemoration of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that established a new relationship between God and mankind.  The author has a lot to say about the question of liturgy and how it should be connected to the Bible and not subject merely to the whims of speakers [1].  I found a lot to like and appreciate about this book, including the high view of scripture that we see and the seriousness of taking the biblical pattern of worship, including holy days, seriously.  The author’s statements about the importance of ecclesiology in terms of defining the boundaries of religious practice is also one I take to heart even if I have a different view of this tradition and its guarantors than the author does.  Even if you are not a Catholic or favorable to its claims of authority, and I am not, there is much that can be appreciated in this book.

In terms of its contents this book is a short one at under 150 pages.  The book opens with a discussion of biblical messages to prophets for them to take a word and eat it, which the author views (not without reason) as being symbolic of eating the broken bread in the NT Passover.  The author then spends a few chapters looking at biblical Christianity before the canonization of the New Testament (2), the use of expressions for the new covenant/testament in the New Testament and what they refer to (3), the traditions of the early church found in the Apostolic Fathers and other old writings (4), the original setting of the New Testament (5), the church of the New Testament (6), which in the author’s mind is suspiciously and unbiblically close to the behavior of the Catholic Church, and the use of the Old Testament as scripture within the New Testament itself (7).  Much of the rest of the book looks at areas of largely Catholic interest, such as a Catholic view of the canon of the New Testament (8), the connection of the NT and a largely unknown Catholic lectionary (9), the truth and humility of the word (10), which sits at odds with the author’s pompous claims for authority, the relationship between the NT and church doctrine, which is not as straightforward as one would like (11), the relationship of the New Testament to various “mysteries,” which bear nothing to the Babylonian mystery religion of the author’s imagination (12), the sacramentality of scripture (13) and the connection between the New Testament and the “heart of worship” (14).  The book ends with a look full circle at where it begins (15) with a look at the Passover.

Although there is much that can be appreciated about this book and used profitably in one’s reading and thinking, it should come as no surprise that the author’s approach and worldview ultimately must be rejected by those who hold to a continuity between Original Christianity and the contemporary religious practice that God desires from believers.  The author’s views about the authority of Catholic tradition and the Catholic hierarchy are ultimately non-starters for those who believe in the Bible and not with Hellenistic/Catholic interpretations.  The author espouses an approach that desires to encourage Protestants to “come home” to the Roman Catholic Church that is not appealing at all for those who reject the whole claim of Catholic authority over any aspect of Christian dogma and practice.  Even where the author makes claims and statements that are worthy of cautious assent, the author does so in order to support an organization that has always worked against scriptural ways and continues to do so today, and which seeks a unity under ungodly and unscriptural authority.  Ultimately, no matter how much one wants to like certain aspects of a book like this, there comes a point where the author and a reader like myself must part ways because we do not have the same interpretation nor do we ultimately follow the same authority.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Book Reviews, Christianity, Church of God, History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Book Review: Consuming The Word

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