Friday, September 30, 2011

Podcast & Post: The Parable of the Wicked Tenants with Curtis Mitch (Matt 21:33-46)(Sunday's Readings)

I was honored to be joined this week on the podcast by the editor of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Curtis Mitch. Mitch is also the co-author (with Edward Sri) of a new commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Here we talk about the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. Below is the audio plus a complete write-up with all the relevant sources.

TSP Podcast 5a: On the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, with Curtis Mitch [right click to download]

As virtually all scholars agree, the imagery of the story itself likely comes from Isaiah 5. There the Lord describes Israel as a vineyard, which he has built (cf. Isa 5:1–2, 7).[1] Indeed, the motif of the vineyard was frequently associated with Israel in Jewish literature.[2] Deciphering the other imagery in the story is not all that difficult.

The Meaning of the Vineyard
Some—especially those who see the story as a creation of the early Church—have read this story in terms of a supersessionist theology in which the Church replaces Israel. However, as Evans points out, this makes little sense of the parable since it is the tenants and not the vineyard which is condemned. The identity of the vineyard remains constant—it is the tenants, which changes hands. Given the context, it is most likely that the “tenants” in the parable symbolize the Jewish leadership.[3] In fact, the Jewish leaders are described with the term elsewhere in ancient Jewish texts.[4]  In addition, the servants who are sent by the owner and who are rejected are widely recognized as representing the prophets sent by the Lord to his people.[5] The son of the owner who is killed is obviously an image of Jesus.

Art vs. Hate Crime

This one cartoon sums up the anti-Christian prejudice we find in certain corners of our culture, particularly in the art world, better than anything I could ever write.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

TSP Episode 4: Fr. Andrew Younan and Nathan Scoggins

On the most recent episode of The Sacred Page radio show/podcast focused on the theme of priesthood as we spoke with two interesting guests.

Fr. Andrew Younan is the Rector of the Chaldean Rite Catholic seminary in San Diego. The Chaldeans have a fascinating history which traces itself back to Babylon (modern day Iraq). He spoke of his journey to the priesthood, discerning a vocation, forming future priests and the biblical basis for the Catholic priesthood. We also touched on the unique beauty that is the Chaldean Rite. Fr. Younan has been tapped as the translator of Chaldean Rite prayers into English. He teaches Biblical Hebrew and Philosophy at John Paul the Great Catholic University.

Nathan Scoggins is the director of a new film called The Least of These. It stars Isaiah Washington and Robbert Loggia. The film deals with the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, but it comes at it from a different angle than you might expect. The movie depicts not only the suffering of the victims but highlights the struggles of good priests who have been faithful to their mission, depicting, among other things, how they have been unfairly put under a shadow of suspicion because of the sins of others. The film is a thriller/mystery that has some great twists you never see coming. You can check it out on Facebook. Nathan teaches courses in directing and other film-related courses at John Paul the Great Catholic University.

I'd love to get your comments in the comment box!

TSP Podcast 4: On the Priesthood, Guests: Fr. Andrew Younan and Nathan Scoggins [right click to download]

Monday, September 26, 2011

St. Pope Pius X and Critical Methodologies

Although historical revisionists like to turn Pope Pius X (1903-1914) into a reactionary and a simpleton who rejected the validity of historical critical study of Scripture, his actual position was a bit more complex than is often realized. I've known this for a while, but this point was driven home for me today as I read through one of his encyclicals and found the following line:
“There are persons who, firmly entrenched in their own faith, rage against criticism as a thing of destruction. As a matter of fact, it is an innocent thing in itself, and, rightly used, aids investigation in the happiest manner” (Jucunda sane 17 [1904]).
Of course, Pius X was the last pope to be canonized a saint.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Is God Fair? Round Two: The 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Apparently Holy Mother Church wants us to learn something about God’s justice and mercy, because the themes of this Sunday’s Readings repeat, with variation, those of last week’s.

Last week we had to deal with the difficult Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, which raised the issue of whether God is “unfair” in his merciful generosity.  (On a side note, a good friend and fellow scholar passes on a suggestion from a saintly priest that the “denarius” in last week’s parable may be identified with the Eucharist, the “daily wage” or “daily bread” that sustains us for Today so that we may live to see Tomorrow.  Beautiful!)

This week the topic of God’s “fairness” rises again at the beginning of the First Reading:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

TSP Episode 3: Jeff Morrow, Conversion from Judaism and the Bible Politicized

I'm a bit behind in posting this, but here is The Sacred Page Podcast Episode 3. Here I talked with Jeff Morrow, Ph.D., who converted to Christianity from Judaism and then came into the Catholic Church. He also talks about "The Bible Politicized".

TSP Podcast 3: Jeff Morrow: Conversion from Judaism and how the Bible Politicized [right click to download]

Friday, September 16, 2011

Is God Fair? The Readings for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The Gospel Reading for this Lord’s Day raises the issue of the fairness of God.  Jesus, being a good teacher, wants his students to think.  He teaches in parables that—on the one hand—do indeed communicate truth and answer questions, but—on the other—also raise new, puzzling questions that require the student (discipulus means student, after all) to expend some mental energy. 

Our First Reading emphasizes the distance between God’s perspective and ours:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Join Me This Saturday in SoCal for a Study of the Early Church Fathers

If you're in the Southern California area, please consider coming out to a one-day conference this Saturday on the Early Church Fathers.
  • How did the early Christians understand who Jesus was? 
  • How did the early Church understand the Scriptures of Israel and commandments such as those relating to animal sacrifice?
  • How did the books of the Bible get put together--and what did Christians do before there was a Bible?
  • How did early Christians worship?
  • And much, much more!
This will be a rare multi-media presentation, including, among other things, images of important archaeological discoveries.
Date: Sat., September 17, 9am to 4pm
Location: Sacred Heart Chapel
381 West Center Street, Covina CA 91723
For more info. call John at 626.331.3549, ext. 413
Price: $40 per person – Lunch included
For more information, go here.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Purgatory in Judaism? Plus More (with a Podcast on the Sunday's Readings)

TSP Podcast 2b: Reflections on this Sunday's Readings (Michael Barber & John Bergsma) [right click to download]

For more information on this Sunday's readings, you should look at John's fine post.

For those of you new to this podcast, please check out our Podcast (on the left!) and be sure to take advantage of the FREE recording of John Bergsma's talk (see the box on the right!).

Purgatory in Judaism? 

Moreover, in the commentary I mentioned that Jesus often seems to imply that some will endure a divine punishment which will not be everlasting. Here are the precise texts I had in mind:
Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; 26 truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny." (Matt 5:25–26).

The Sacred Page Podcast 2: The Bible Made Me Catholic (Guests: John Bergsma & Derry Connolly)

This week on our show, "The Sacred Page with Michael Barber", our topic was "The Bible Made Me Catholic".

In the first part of the show I talked with my co-blogger, John Bergsma. John, as you know probably know, is an Old Testament scholar. His magnum opus is The Jubilee from Leviticus to Qumran: A History of Interpretation, which was published by Brill. In this episode, he explains his journey from Dutch Calvinism to the Catholic Church.

In the second part of the show, Derry Connolly joined us. Derry is the founder and president of John Paul the Great Catholic University. Derry describes how learning to read Scripture as part of his daily prayer caused him to have a profound inner conversion--a conversion out of which emerged a whole new university, JP Catholic (short for "John Paul the Great Catholic University").

Both stories underscore our theme--the transformative power of Scripture study.

Hope you enjoy the show!

TSP Podcast 2: The Bible Made Me Catholic (Guests: John Bergsma & Derry Connolly) [right click to download]

Forgiveness: The Readings for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Readings for this Lord’s Day are unified around the theme of forgiveness.  We begin and end with the words of “Jesus” on this topic: the First Reading records the words of Jesus, son of Sira, and the Gospel records the words of Jesus, Son of God.

One of the last books of the Christian Old Testament to be written, Sirach (also known as Ben Sira or Ecclesiasticus) often seems to anticipate the teachings of Christ himself:

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Joel Marcus, Richard Hays and Lori Baron Rock Out

From Nathan Eubank. This is a bit scary. It is also a reminder of the generation gap that exists between "established" scholars and younger ones.

And, yes, I did just associate the children of the 1960's with "establishment".  :  )

But seriously, keep on rockin' in the free world you guys!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Warning and Rebuke in the Christian Life: Readings for the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

I don’t like personal conflict.  I try to avoid it as much as possible.  Probably most Americans do.  I’m not sure what it’s like in other cultures, although I’ve heard of others where open social confrontation is more common.

This Sunday’s readings deal with situations in which Christians have a duty to confront one another.  They don’t make for comfortable reading in a culture that puts a high value on keeping the peace and minding one’s own business.

The First Reading is the great “Watchman” passage from the prophet Ezekiel:

Why the Pope Has to Be Infallible, Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts about Papal infallibility and its relationship to the interpretation of Scripture. See part 1, part 2, and part 2a.

In the first and second parts of this series of posts, we discussed the infallibility of the Church as a whole, and then the infallibility of an ecumenical council.

We concluded the last post with the question, Is the infallibility of an ecumenical council enough? In other words, in order to preserve the unity of the Church, and to transmit the faith with certitude to the common believer, is it enough that ecumenical councils alone be infallible?

Friday, September 02, 2011

TSP Podcast 1: Dr. Pitre on the Eucharist & Prof. Iocco on "Secular" Media

This is the inaugural podcast of The Sacred Page. Brant Pitre and I discuss the Eucharist in the New Testament, with special attention to John 6. Then Dominic Iocco and I discuss his piece, "In support of secular media" (read it here).

TSP Podcast 1: The Eucharist in Scripture, Sunday's Gospel Reading (9/4/11: Matt 18) and Christians in Hollywood (Guests: Brant Pitre & Dominic Iocco) [right click to download]

Get a copy of Brant Pitre's book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist here

Our New Radio Show and Podcast!

Today is a banner day for we begin a new weekly radio show/podcast!

As of this morning, we are starting a new radio show which will air each Friday on the Guadalupe Radio network at 1pm Eastern Time: "The Sacred Page with Michael Barber". For those who wish to listen live, you can go to their website here. The show will also be available as podcasts here (the first podcast will be available later today--you will see a link off on the side).

Today's guests: Brant Pitre & Dominic Iocco

On our first episode I will be joined by my friend and co-blogger Brant Pitre. The topic: his new book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper (Doubleday, 2011).

We will also be talking with  Dominic Iocco, the producer of an up-and-coming film: "Red Line."

About the Show

The program will do much of the same thing we do here on the We will interview various scholars and theologians and discuss their work. In addition, we will talk about the upcoming Sunday readings, address recent debates, cover new archaeological discoveries and look at other developments in the field of Biblical studies and Theology.

So why am I interviewing a Bible scholar and a movie producer in our pilot episode?

Well, although we will discuss biblical studies, this is not simply a show about academic inquiry. Since as Catholics we see Scripture as more than mere written text--for us it contains the Word of God!--we want to talk about how Scripture study can be transformative. We want to discuss how the lessons of Scripture relate to real-world questions people in our culture are asking. To that end I will bring on Hollywood producers, script writers, professors of new media, etc.,--people who impact culture--to discuss ways Bible study can play a role in what John Paul II called "The New Evangelization."

And it all gets kicked off today!

Get Your Free Gift and/or Be Part of the Show

Each week we will give away a free audio recording of a talk by a leading scholar or author; e.g., figures such as Scott Hahn (CD and/or an mp3 download). Oftentimes it will be a presentation that has been given by one of that week's guests. You will see a link off on the side to the free give away. To obtain this CD you will either click a link or call: 1-800-526-2151.

To be part of the show, you can call: 1-888-526-2151.

Thank you!

We have so many people to thank. First, to Guadalupe radio for broadcasting the show--thanks for the opportunity. Second, to St. Joseph's Communications and the Catholic Resource Center, especially to Terry Barber, Johnny Garcia and Richard Obannon; thank you so much for making the show possible and for indulging me in trying out all of my wacky ideas. Third, let me express my deepest gratitude to Tom Dunn, our media professor extraordinaire at JP Catholic, who edited together the montage-theme for the show and who provided the voice-over for the break at the bottom of the hour; thanks so much for your time and effort. Fourth, to the good people at JP Catholic, particularly Kevin Meziere: thanks for working so hard to get the technical details right on our end. Finally, I am grateful to the Catholic University of America for permission to use to the audio from the address of John Paul II heard at the beginning of the recording.

Here we go!

So, buckle up! This is going to be quite a ride! And please help us get the word out: "The Sacred Page" is now a blog and a podcast!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Derry Connolly Explains JP Catholic on TV Show in Memphis

Teaching at a school like JP Catholic is so exciting. This week our President was invited to share a little bit about the vision of our innovative school on News Channel 3 in Memphis. Check it out:

For more go to or you can watch a video here. For information about our graduate program in biblical theology, go here.