Friday, January 29, 2016

Norcia Summer School on St Paul to the Hebrews

I'd delighted to plug this which is taught by many good people known to Traditional Catholics in England and on the internet, including Prior Cassian Folsom of Norcia's benedictine community, Fr Thomas Crean OP, and Prof Peter Kwasniewski.

Most bibles today coyly refer to 'The Letter to the Hebrews', whereas the liturgy (at least in the EF) introduces readings from it as 'St Paul's Letter to the Hebrews'. It is at any rate part of the Pauline corpus, and arguments against Paul's authorship based on differences of style and theme should be taken with a pinch of salt: the same arguments would suggest that Henry VI Part III could not have been written by the author of The Tempest.

It is a hugely important part of the Scriptures, particularly in light of modern errors. Its very existence is a rebuke to the modernist argument that the sacrificial nature of the Mass was not emphasised until long after the Apostolic era, the 4th century or so. This promises to be a very interesting and edifying session, with a truly uplifting cultural, and above all liturgical, backdrop, in the lovely town of Norcia, the birthplace of St Benedict.

"The Transcendent Christ: St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews" 
From July 10-24th, the St. Albert the Great Center for Scholastic Studies will hold a summer session in Norcia, Italy. In partnership with the Monastero San Benedetto, this will be the fifth year they have held the Summer Institute. 
The St. Albert the Great Center is dedicated to the revival of higher studies in theology undertaken according to the mind and method of the great scholastics, and in particular the work of St. Thomas Aquinas.
This summer's program is focussing on St. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews. With the sacred text as the primary source, participants will also follow along the interpretive tradition of the Church by reading commentaries of the Fathers and in particular St. Thomas's commentary on the epistle. 
The Epistle offers the opportunity to explore in depth the subject of grace as it is found in its source, Jesus Christ, the head of the mystical body. In particular, St. Paul's letter focuses on how the excellence of the work of Christ has a three-fold extension: to the whole of creation, to the rational creature, and to the justification of the saints.
This year, in addition to the regular AMCSS tutors, the program is privileged to have Dr. Peter Kwasniewski of Wyoming Catholic College as a guest tutor who will help lead seminar discussion. Besides the daily seminars, there will be a guest lecture by Fr. Cassian Folsom, OSB, the founder and prior of the monastery. The two-week program reaches its climax in an authentic scholastic disputation, moderated by one of the monks. 
In addition to the academic program, there is the opportunity to participate in the daily life of worship (High Mass, Divine Office) of the Benedictine monks who live and pray at the birthplace of SS. Benedict & Scholastica. Optional excursions will be planned to other nearby pilgrimage sites, as well as a longer weekend trip to Rome at the end of the program in order to have a relaxing but formative experience in the Eternal City, the glorious foundation seat of the Church. 
For more information, visit their website:
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  1. It will be interesting what this Summer School makes of the following sentence in the recent Vatican paper on relationships with the Jews:

    "This Epistle, however, is not directed to the Jews but rather to the Christians of Jewish background who have become weary and uncertain."

    Feeling a bit weary and uncertain myself!

  2. "….arguments against Paul's authorship based on differences of style and theme should be taken with a pinch of salt…" could only be said by one who has not studied the Epistle in any depth!

    1. Father: Why not put forward an argument supporting your position rather than belittling someone on no evidence whatsoever?

    2. The Greek used by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is far superior to Paul's. The style of the construction of the arguments is not Paul's. The creation of new words and the use of words found nowhere else in the NT or OT are not typical of Paul. The technique of OT quotation is not Paul's.
      A detailed study of the Epistle which would indeed require the reading of commentaries would deal with this point, cf Maurice, Spicq, Bruce (and even in this Year of Mercy Calvin!).

    3. The matter is really beyond serious academic debate. Apart from stylistic and theological differences between Hebrews and the Pauline corpus, we have S Paul's own testimony in Galatians 2: '... the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter.' If Paul so firmly denies he has a mission to the Jews, it seems improbable, to say the least, that he would address a lengthy treatise (for that is what Hebrews is) to a Jewish audience. Some groups, of course, disagree, including I believe the Jehovah's Witnesses.

    4. Arguments based on style and theme should always be taken with a pinch of salt. Not so long ago there was a consensus in favour of source 'Q' for the gospels, and 'J' and 'P' in Genesis. This kind of thing is just imaginations running ahead of the data.

      It is particularly difficult for St Paul because he tells us himself he used a secretary. As for him addressing the Jews sorry, but that is poppycock. See Acts 9:20 and passim. Really this is beyond absurd.

      Arguments based on other kinds of internal evidence can be a different matter. As I made reasonably clear in the post, I have no problem with Hebrews not having been written by Paul of Tarsus. The meaning of the concept of the Pauline canon has to be understood in a wider sense.

      But spare us these absurd arguments, please.

  3. Adrian: But St Paul in Galatians said this division between himself and St Peter was made 17 years after his conversion and there is nothing to say he had not preached to the Jews in the meantime or could not in the future if occasion arose. Further Galatians 2 goes on to say:

    "We are Jews by right of nature, we do not come from the guilty stock of the Gentiles; yet we found out that it is through faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law, that a man is justified. We, like anyone else, had to learn to believe in Jesus Christ, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, not by observance of the law. Observance of the law cannot win acceptance for a single human creature."

    My earlier comment was drawing attention that regardless of who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews the recent Cardinal Koch document was making the completely novel, as far as I know, assertion that it was not addressed to the Jews. But that passage from Galatian which I have quoted above surely knocks the bottom out of the whole of the Koch argument that the Jews do not need the New Covenant.

  4. I came across this reflection: 'Jesus was precisely the "once and for all" (Hebrews 7:27) sacrifice given to reveal the lie and absurdity of the very notion and necessity of "sacrificial" religion itself. Heroic sacrifices to earn God's love are over! That's much of the point of Hebrews 10 if you are willing to read it with new eyes. But we perpetuated such regressive and sacrificial patterns by making God the Father into the Chief Sacrificer, and Jesus into the necessary victim. Is that the only reason to love Jesus?

    This perspective allowed us to ignore Jesus' lifestyle and preaching, because all we really needed Jesus for was the last three days or three hours of his life. This is no exaggeration. The irony is that Jesus undoes, undercuts, and defeats the sacrificial game. Stop counting, measuring, deserving, judging, and punishing, which many Christians are very well trained in--because they believe that was the way God operated too. This is no small thing. It makes the abundant world of grace largely inaccessible--which is, of course, the whole point.

    It is and has always been about love from the very beginning.'

    Somehow I don't think the speakers at Norcia are likely to take this line on Hebrews. Attenders at the conference can always console themselves with the delicious beer brewed by the monks!