Book Notes: Two Biblically Rich Spiritual Reads

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Water and Spirit is Volume II of Adrienne von Speyr’s meditations on St. John’s Gospel. The first volume, appropriately called The Word, focused on the first 18 verses of St. John’s Gospel. I wondered if there would be a second volume, and if so, how many verses it would cover. Thankfully, Water and Spirit spans John 1:19 to 5:47. Within these four-and-a-half chapters of John, we see John the Baptist, the Wedding at Cana, Nicodemus (being born of water and Spirit), the Woman at the Well, and the Curing of the Paralytic near the pool in Bethesda. I have read John’s Gospel a handful of times and I never realized how predominant water was in these first five chapters.

Water and Spirit (Ignatius)

The book is divided into eleven sections, each covering major portions of the Gospel. Each section is then subdivided by verse, with the text of the verse followed by a verse-by-verse commentary. This means you don’t need a Bible side by side with this book to follow along, but it’s completely standalone. The parts I most enjoyed reading related to Jesus Cleansing the Temple and the Wedding at Cana. I like reading all sorts of commentaries on these two passages, as these two always raise controversy, because Jesus got angry, and Jesus referred to His Mother as “Woman.” von Speyr doesn’t even bat an eye at Mary being called Woman, but she presents excellent observations on the Temple cleanse. This occurred a few days after His Baptism. He whipped people and would in turn be whipped Himself before His Death. He shows fiery zeal, but he still offers a path of repentance. Like the first volume, this was equally excellent. I eagerly await Volume III.

Paul: A New Covenant Jew (Eerdmans)

Paul: A New Covenant Jew is the book on St. Paul that Catholics have needed for years now. With the many different Protestant books on Paul and his writings, and the Protestant insistence that Catholics may have Peter, but they have Paul, this book feels long overdue. The book begins in fact with St. Peter’s writings referencing Paul’s writings as Scripture, but also as hard to understand. We then get a summary on the format of this book (one complete study), the authorship (three Catholics), and what a New Covenant Jew is. We then get into the matter of what kind of Jew Paul was. He was either a “former Jew,” an “eschatological Jew,” a “Torah-observant Jew,” or a “new covenant Jew.” Each one is explained in detail with Scripture references to support the views. The first chapter concludes about how to read Paul through the lens of the New Covenant.

The following chapters go on to discuss the Apocalyptic, Pauline Christology, Christ’s sacrifice through the Cross, Divine Sonship, and the Lord’s Supper and New Creation. The section on angels and demons was truly fascinating. It talked about the focus of angels and demons in early Judaism. We then see these two entities within Pauline theology. The authors continue to compare Old Covenant versus New Covenant, further illustrating their case of Paul being a New Covenant Jew.

This is a deep and rich book that I highly recommend for any Catholic (or even non-Catholic). There are a myriad of Catholic books currently out and being published that keep us at the surface level of Scripture, which isn’t entirely a bad thing. However, it doesn’t give us a chance to grow, dive deeper, and grow in our knowledge of God and His Word. This book is on the intermediate to advanced level, but done so in a way that is still accessible and approachable. If you take your time and slow down when reading this book, you will find yourself not only learning more about Paul and ancient Judaism, but the Church we are living in and our place in it.

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Copyright 2019 Stuart Dunn
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About Author

Stuart Dunn was born and raised in Mobile, AL and received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Business Administration from the University of South Alabama. Stuart primarily does accounting and logistics at the Port of Mobile. He married his wife, Mary Katherine, in 2011 and welcomed their first child into the world in 2013. Stuart reviews all things Catholic including adult books, children’s books, Bible Study series, Catholic Courses, CDs, and DVDs in addition to board games at his blog Stuart’s Study at StuartsStudy.blogspot.com.

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