The other day I realized I didn’t have any book open that could be construed as lenten reading, and decided to have another crack at the second volume of Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth, which studies the events of Holy Week.
I don’t know why I gave up last time – Joseph Ratzinger remains one of my favourite theological writers, and the series in question is a masterwork of rigor, clarity and insight. But perhaps it was for the best, as I find that after having spent some time in the trenches of Biblical criticism this text speaks to me on another level as well. In his forward, he writes that,
One thing is clear to me: in two hundred years of exegetical work, historical-critical exegesis has already yielded its essential fruit. If scholarly exegesis is not to exhaust itself in constantly new hypotheses, becoming theologically irrelevant, it must take a methodological step forward and see itself once again as a theological discipline, without abandoning its historical character. It must learn that the positivistic hermeneutic on which it has been based does not constitute the only valid and definitively evolved rational approach; rather, it constitutes a specific and historically conditioned form of rationality that is both open to correction and completion and in need of it. It must recognize that a properly developed faith-hermeneutic is appropriate to the text and can be combined with a historical hermeneutic, aware of its limits, so as to form a methodological whole.
I couldn’t agree more, Benny.
In the realm of fiction, I’ve finally begun reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, an urban fantasy which depicts the melting-pot of America by way of all the disenfranchised gods who came to America along with all the other immigrants.
I hate to admit that I’m a bit disappointed in it: so far it seems content to be a pretty standard gangster/crime story with supernatural characters. It may be an intentional attempt to comment on the erosion of cultural identity, but it’s a bit boring to reduce Odin et al. to the likes of petty thugs. There’s also a lot of sex, and it’s just tiresome and off-putting. I get that a lot of pagan gods had a randy side to them, but it’s a bit much.
Tim Powers’ Last Call, although limited to Arthurian/Jungian archetypes, felt like a much more sophisticated and interesting take on a lot of American Gods’ ideas.