Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Language of Symbolism: Biblical Theology, Semantics, and Exegesis

By Pierre Grelot, 238 pages, Hendrickson.

This excellent book combines a scholarly and intuitive understanding of the Bible and its place in Western religious symbolism. The author is a priest who, it is clear from the book, lives this symbolism through his faith. Most scholars critique and analyze ad nauseam, but here we have the best and most powerful in the Catholic tradition.

While criticism, including personal self-awareness, plays a key role in Catholic spirituality, the ability to bring together every aspect of religion, philosophy, and poetry into an all-encompassing whole takes the final word. This whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

The author believes in sensitivity to cultures at the receiving end of evangelical work, but without giving up one's core principles:

“[W]hen we seek to share the gospel with those immersed in religious systems such as Buddhism and Islam, what new languages will we have to invent, and what symbols can we draw upon, to help them understand and, even better, to help them sense the 'Truth' of the Christian faith?”

Grelot takes symbols so seriously because of their source: “The symbols used in Scripture to 'speak the faith' were not chosen at random; they are deeply rooted in the experience of this world and of the history that divine providence had in store for the 'people of God.' Thus they are closely connected with that people's experience of a relationship with God himself, the experience of a living faith.”

The Language of Symbolism gives us a glimpse of how the Catholic Church remains at the heart of Western culture, to the extent that such a culture still exists.

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