Dr. Gary Anderson: The Story of One Catholic Scholar of Biblical Interpretation

Dr. Gary Anderson from his University of Notre Dame profile
Dr. Gary Anderson from his University of Notre Dame profile

Dr. Gary Anderson is Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at the University of Notre Dame and is quickly becoming one of the world’s leading scholars of Second Temple Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls and especially of biblical interpretation among early Jews and early Christians. He is also a Protestant convert to Catholicism. He earned a B.A. from Albion College, an M.Div. from Duke University, and a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament from Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. 

Dr. Anderson was raised Protestant and in fact entered Duke University as a Protestant seminarian. He writes some brief autobiographical insights in his important book The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination. He tells how important studying church history at Duke University under such giants as Dr. David Steinmetz helped point him in the direction of the Catholic Church. He eventually entered the Roman Catholic Church and became one of the leading Catholic scholars of early biblical interpretation. 

Papacy in Scripture VI: Introduction to St. Peter in the New Testament

Continuing my series of posts on the biblical roots of the papacy, we have finally come to the NT. In a book that was influential in my own conversion to Catholicism, the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (current Pope Benedict XVI), wrote that “it would be misguided to pounce immediately on the classic proof text for the primacy, Matthew 16:13-20.”1 Thus, I will not begin with Matthew 16, but will rather end this series with several posts focusing on different aspects of that passage. 

That being said, please bear in mind that I am not intending any sort of deductive argument based on any of the observations I make in this present post, I am merely attempting to set the stage for the prominent role St. Peter played in the NT as a framework for showing in later posts how this prominent role is in fact an office within the Church Jesus institutes, fulfilling the Kingdom of Israel from the OT, transforming its very structure and essence. 

We can begin this discussion with the list of apostles Jesus gathered around Himself. In his last publication before he died, the Romanian Orthodox (formerly Lutheran) church historian Jaroslav Pelikan makes some very interesting comments based upon the textual traditions concerning the list of apostles in the NT. Dr. Pelikan makes the following observation: 

Journal Review: Letter & Spirit

I wanted to take a moment to alert our readers to what I consider to be the finest journal on the market dealing with Scripture and theology: Letter & Spirit Letter & Spirit is a relatively new journal (first published in 2005) from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, an organization with which I am affiliated, and which Dr. Scott Hahn founded and serves as President and also as the journal’s editor. Letter & Spirit is the only academic journal I have ever encountered that I read straight through, cover-to-cover, as soon as I get my hands on an issue. So why is it such an exciting and important journal? 

First of all, it is filled with both highly original and old classic articles that are written from the heart of the Church. Its pages are filled with writings from some of the world’s finest theologians and Catholic biblical scholars as well as some of the most important up-and-coming Catholic scholars. The entire journal is devoted to Catholic biblical theology that is rooted in the Church’s Tradition and Liturgy. The articles are academic and scholarly, and thus some of them assume a readership that has familiarity with Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic (including, in at least one instance, Syriac). Most articles are accessible to non-specialists as well, and any educated lay person would benefit from reading most of the journals’ articles. 

The Difference of One

Crossing the TiberEvery year at the Rite of Election in my diocese, the Bishop stands up and does an informal poll with those seeking to become Catholic at Easter.  He asks them how many of them decided to become Catholic through reading Catholic literature or hearing or seeing Catholic radio and television?  Some hands raise.  He then asks them how many of them become Catholic because of someone they know?  Every hand goes up! 

In my journey to the Catholic Church, I did much research and read books and listened to tapes–all because of one person–Biff Rocha.  While, my journey did not actually begin with Biff, he was there at a time when the questions came to a head and having been there himself was able to direct, guide, and point me to the resources and things I needed. 

There And Back Again

Biff 1Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, I always considered myself Catholic. For my family being Catholic consisted in being baptized and attending Mass on Christmas and Easter, but most of all, we were Catholic because we were Italian. I took the typical Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes and was confirmed. In high school, nearly all of my friends were Catholic, but again this had more to do with the fact that they were Italian, Czech, German, Polish, etc, than anything else. Few of the people at Mass could explain Church doctrine, and fewer still knew the reasons why we believed as we did.

La Befana the Christmas Witch

befana_epifaniaThe Christmas Witch has always been very dear to me. Doubly blest, she would visit me twice during each Christmas season: once at home to fill my shoes, and once by way of a friend. One of my best friends in high school was Lucia Travaglini, and after the Christmas Mass on January 6th, we’d walk home observing all the dolls on the windowsills. After spying to find the witch’s broom, Lucy and I would eventually exchange gifts left for the other by La Befana, the giver of gifts. The Christmas Witch never forgot me nor failed to bring just the right present. So you can imagine my surprise and sadness freshman year of college at Miami University, when my new friends had never heard of La Befana.

With a Mother’s Love

Mary's Heart

To many around the world she is known as Mary–the mother of God, the mother of Jesus. She was the girl who God loves, freeing her from the stain of sin. She is the girl whose “yes” changed the face of the world. She said “yes” when others would have asked questions, or rationalized. She said “yes” almost without thinking, for this was who she was created to be. She was the second Eve. She produced the fruit of a new tree, the tree of eternal life. And so with her “yes” God came into the world and she was trusted to guide Him, protect Him, and love Him. Mary’s life wasn’t without suffering and hardship though. She saw the nails pierce, she saw him hang upon the cross, and she saw Him die. This was who He was. This is what He was created for. And yet, we do not hear of her complaining or questioning. Tradition tells of a look between a mother and a son as Jesus carried His cross towards Calvary. A look and only a look–words were not expressed; everything was said. Who was consoling whom? Who was giving whom strength? They were there together, mother and Son, each having said “yes.” Mary was there at the beginning of Jesus’ life and now she would be there for the end. In a way, Mary walked to her Calvary. She suffered with her Son, she yearned to take His pain, and her heart ached as if pierced by a spear. When he died that day, so also did she. All of Christianity can be summed up as a love story between a mother and a son.

Papacy in Scripture V: Extra-Biblical Context

Scrolls 1I was not sure what to entitle this post, since it does not directly deal with texts from the canonical Scriptures, hence the subtitle: “Extra-Biblical Context.” At the same time, I wanted to highlight its continuity with the previous four posts on this topic, hence the misleading title: “Papacy in Scripture V.” I hope this post serves as a sort of transition into the NT material where we will dive into the Gospels. 

Why examine extra-biblical 2nd Temple Jewish literature if we don’t consider it inspired by God? For many reasons, chief among them such literature often provides insightful commentary to earlier OT texts and shows ways in which Jews living before, during and after Jesus interpreted the OT. What I hope to do in subsequent posts is show how the NT material shares some of the interpretive judgments found in the 2nd Temple texts below, and how this relates to the office of the papacy. 

Where’s That in the Bible?

OpenBibleHow many times have you heard someone respond to a specific Catholic teaching, say on Mary or on the papacy, with the question, “Where’s that in the Bible?” So often the intent of this question is to imply that these Catholic teachings are in fact not found in Scripture, and are therefore not to be believed.

But where’s that in the Bible? Where does the Bible teach that what Christians should believe must be found in Scripture? The theological assumption here is often called by its technical Latin name, sola Scriptura, or Scripture alone, and amounts to something like, “the Bible is the only authority on matters of Christian doctrine.”

Certainly 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (NIV). That all Scripture is God-breathed, or inspired, is of course true and is not something only taught by Protestants; the Catholic Church equally affirms this teaching, and in fact cites this passage, e.g. in the Second Vatican Council’s 1965 dogmatic constitution on divine revelation, Dei Verbum (no. 11; see also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, ftnt 70 to no. 105).

Vatican Council: The Sequel

vaticanIIIn an earlier post, I discussed the definational meaning of orthodox.  In subsequent articles, I hope to lay out some of the guiding principles that define Catholic orthodoxy. The first being, how we understand and read the Second Vatican Council. (How did it become referred to as the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II anyway?  I think it would have been cooler to refer to it as “The Vatican Council: The Sequel.” I digress.)

If you have never read the documents of the Second Vatican Council – read them! The council is a gift and a blessing to the Church, and the documents are beautiful! We should embrace them, understand them, and get as many people to read them as we can.  We should not run from the council or blame the council, but rather to be orthodox is to embrace the council, realizing that it is still being interpred and implemented. But, when you do pick up these documents, read it by the letter guided by the spirit for understanding and deeper reflection. This distinguishes orthodoxy from others who read the Second Vatican Council looking for what is written between the lines, or read it as a political account of the conversatives in the Roman Curia versus those progressives who wanted change. We don’t read it by the spirit, but rather we read it IN the Spirit. We don’t look for what is between the lines, but what is right there on the page. That is a huge difference.

Love and Truth