Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Bible Basics" Now an E-book

Ave Maria Press informs me that my new book, Bible Basics for Catholics, is now available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo.

I asked if it was available on NoBo, Noogie-noogie, and Flash.  They said no, but they were working on it.

Seriously, it is an e-book now ...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

St. Bernard on the Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit

We noted that the second reading of the Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost allows the homilist to address either the "gifts" of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:3-13) or the "fruit" of the Spirit (Gal 5).  The following is insight from St. Bernard of Clairvaux on this two-fold endowment from the Spirit.  St. Bernard is actually meditating on Song of Songs 1:2:
"Your name is oil poured out."  Of what truth of our interior life does the Holy Spirit wish to assure us by means of this text?  He refers to the experience of a twofold operation , one by which he inwardly strengthens the virtues that lead us to salvation, the other by which he outwardly endows us with serviceable gifts.  The former is of benefit to ourselves, the latter to our neighbors.  For example, faith, hope, and charity are given to us for our own sake, without them we cannot be saved.  But the gift of wise and learned speech, the power to heal, to prophesy, and endowments of this kind without which we can fully achieve our own salvation, are undoubtedly meant to be used for our neighbor's salvation.  And these operations of the Holy Spirit, that we take note of either in ourselves or in others, are named from their method of functioning: we call them infusion and effusion.  To which of them may we suitably apply the words: "Your name is oil poured out"?  Is it not to effusion? If he had meant infusion, he would have said "poured in." ... Any man who perceives that he is endowed with an exterior grace enabling him to influence others, can also say to the Lord: "Your name is oil poured out."

—St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 18 on the Song of Songs

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Pentecost Readings

Let's discuss the Readings for Pentecost Sunday Mass during the Day.

The First Reading is, finally, the account of Pentecost itself, from Acts 2:1-11.  We have already remarked on the intimate relationship between this event and Babel (Pentecost is the Un-Babel) and Sinai (Pentecost is the giving of the New Law of the New Covenant).  It is important to note that the congregation gathered around the apostles comes not only from a wide variety of nations of the earth, but also consists of “Jews and converts to Judaism.”  In other words, there are both ethnic Jews and ethnic Gentiles here: those who hear the apostles are truly a representative cross-section of humanity.

Let the Fire Fall! Reflections on the Readings for the Vigil of Pentecost

The Lectionary provides a wealth of Scriptural inspiration for this weekend’s celebration of the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost.

As usual, there is too much beauty and richness for us to deal with it all in depth.  Nonetheless, here's a go:

The First Reading Options for the Vigil:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Inscription Found Mentioning "Bethlehem"

The Israeli Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery of a pre-exilic seal impression bearing the name of the town "Bethlehem."  Click for the full story. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Webinar Tuesday at 3PM

I'll be leading a webinar tomorrow on how to teach the Bible and salvation history, based on my book Bible Basics for Catholics: A New Picture of Salvation History.  The webinar is Tuesday, May 21, at 3pm EDT, and the sign-up is here.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ascension Day, the Kingdom, and the Church

In most of the country, this Sunday is celebrated as Ascension Day.  I'll offer a few comments about the first reading, which is really the primary reading for this particular solemnity:
Reading 1: Acts 1:1-11
In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for "the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

The 7th Sunday of Easter, Apostolic Succession, Church Government

In the northeast and a few other places, Ascension Day was celebrated at it's proper time (on Thursday) and this Sunday is celebrated as the Seventh Sunday in Easter.

The first reading for this Sunday is Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26:
Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers
--there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons
in the one place --.
He said, "My brothers,
the Scripture had to be fulfilled
which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand
through the mouth of David, concerning Judas,
who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.
He was numbered among us
and was allotted a share in this ministry.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

First copy of Nehemiah found in unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls!

Exciting news!
Anyone familiar with the Dead Sea Scrolls can tell you that portions of nearly every book in the Hebrew Bible are represented in these ancient texts discovered in caves near the Dead Sea. 
The only exceptions were the Book of Esther and the Book of Nehemiah; scholars assumed the latter had been written on the same scroll as the Book of Ezra (as was common) but simply hadn’t survived—until now. In a recent blog post, Norwegian scroll scholar Torleif Elgvin of Evangelical Lutheran University College in Oslo, Norway, announced that he and colleague Esther Eshel of Bar-Ilan University will be publishing a collection of more than two dozen previously unknown scroll fragments, including the first known fragment of Nehemiah. 
The scrolls in the new book come from Qumran Cave 4, Bar-Kokhba caves and Wadi ed-Daliyeh. The publication, Gleanings from the Caves (forthcoming from T&T Clark) will feature enhanced photographs of the scrolls by Bruce Zuckerman and his team, as well as “artifacts from the Judean Desert such as a scroll jar, a palm fiber pen, a bronze altar and inkwell.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Scott Hahn Awarded the Fr. Scanlan Chair of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization!

I'm so pleased to see my dear friend, Scott Hahn, getting recognized for his many gifts and amazing contributions.

From the Franciscan University website:
STEUBENVILLE, OHRecognizing him as a singular gift to the Catholic Church, Franciscan University of Steubenville awarded the Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, Chair of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization to world-renowned Scripture scholar, theologian, author, and speaker Dr. Scott Hahn.  
Father Terence Henry, TOR, University president, made the announcement during Franciscan University’s 64th annual commencement ceremonies, held May 12.  
A professor of theology and Scripture at Franciscan University since 1990, Hahn plans to utilize the chair to advance the mission of the New Evangelization launched by Pope John Paul II and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. 
“Through his work at Franciscan University, his scholarly research and publications, his popular writing and countless speaking engagements, Dr. Scott Hahn has done the very thing the Fathers of Vatican II called upon Catholic scholars to do,” said Father Terence Henry, TOR. “This new appointment will aid him in his ongoing work in teaching sacred Scripture and the New Evangelization, which is so close to his heart.” 
Hahn’s work in the New Evangelization has been praised by many Church leaders including Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archdiocese of New York, who said Hahn's teaching brings people closer to Sacred Scripture, and William Cardinal Levada, prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, who hailed Hahn for helping to create a new apologetics to counter both the “new atheism” and anti-Catholic fundamentalism. 

In Lansing This Saturday

I'll be in Lansing, MI area (specifically Williamston, MI) this Saturday for a morning seminar, talking about my journey to Catholicism, my new book, and how to teach Scripture effectively at St. Mary's Church.  Any TSP readers in the Lansing MI area are welcome to come! 

The link to sign up is here.

Webinar: How to Get Thru the Bible in an Hour!

I'll be doing a live Webinar through Ave Maria Press next Tuesday, May 22, at 3PM EDT.  The Webinar will be based on my book Bible Basics for Catholics, and I'll be discussing how to teach the main outlines of salvation history in as little as an hour (if you really need to), although the approach can be expanded into whatever time is available (a 7, 10, 14-hour course or biblestudy, for example).  My approach involves simple sketching, so it's particularly helpful for visual learners. The sign up is here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Interesting News at Davidic-Era Archeological Site

Prof. Garfinkel with possible ancient Israelite "shrine"
Interesting finds keep coming to light at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the site of the remains of a Davidic-era city near what once was the Philistine-Israelite border.  Already this site has turned up a tenth-century BC ink-on-pottery inscription that none other than Emile Puech—a famous French scholar from the Ecole Biblique widely known for his early work on the Dead Sea Scrolls—has interpreted as a description of the rise of Saul to the kingship.

Now archeologist Yosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University is making known cultic finds from the site that shed light on religious practice at the ancient city.

Don't be surprised if the cultic materials that are discovered reveal syncretism or pagan religions being practiced in an Israelite city, and don't be surprised if news articles spin the finds as "disproving" the biblical account of Israelite "monotheism."  Actually, the biblical account asserts that monotheism (I'm not going to argue the technical definition of that term—I am aware of the debate) was introduced early in Israel's history but was mostly a "minority position" through most periods of Israel's history, especially during the "Judges" period immediately preceding the monarchy.  We should expect to find religious practice at Qeiyafa that is "deviant" by biblical standards.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Baby Number Eight On the Way

There he or she is, Bergsma Baby Number 8, due in November.

Eight is the biblical number of a new beginning.  David was the eighth son of Jesse.  His rise to the throne of Israel marked a new epoch in the history of salvation.

I did my dissertation on the Jubilee Year, which also occurred on the "eighth" year of a week-of-years.  It was the supreme renewal of Israel social and religious life, like pressing the "reset" button on society.

Dawn and I have a lot of joy over this eighth child.  The baby is like a divine gift of renewal as we get older. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jesus, the Servant, and His Sacrificial Love in John (Podcast on the Sunday Readings: 6th Sunday of Easter)

In this Sunday's Gospel Jesus tells us what true love looks like: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)."

Here we look at how this part of the Last Supper discourse is related to Jesus' act of washing the disciples feet (John 13) and his sacrificial death as the Suffering Servant (Isa 52-53)--something also alluded to in the second reading. 

Listen on iTunes or click the link below. Look for more information on this podcast over at the corresponding post at 

Feel free to leave your comments below.

All You Need is Love: The 6th Sunday of Easter

In 1967 the Beatles wrote and performed a song for one of the first world-wide TV broadcasts called, “All You Need is Love.”  It became a classic and as late as the 1980’s I can remember working on the trombone line of an adaptation of it for high school band.  It’s one of a number of Beatles songs where they stumbled on something true out of their Christian heritage, without understanding the full implications, or in fact actively distorting the real implications.

Be that as it may, “All You Need is Love” could serve as the theme for this Sunday’s readings, but as we will see, “love” gets defined in a far more demanding way than we usually care to consider.

1.  The first reading is the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Roman centurion, Cornelius:
Reading 1 Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
When Peter entered, Cornelius met him
and, falling at his feet, paid him homage.
Peter, however, raised him up, saying,
"Get up. I myself am also a human being."

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The True Vine: The Readings for the 5th Sunday of Easter

When I was in elementary school it was still possible to watch "The Lone Ranger" re-runs on our black-and-white TV in the afternoons.  This "masked man" struck unexpectedly, riding into towns in the Wild West on his trusty steed Silver, righting wrongs and correcting injustices, and disappearing as quickly as he came.  "Who was that masked man?"  Of course, the Lone Ranger is an icon of American culture, but it occurs to me that probably none of my seven children have any idea who he is.  I'll have to see if they have reruns on Netflix.

The "Lone Ranger" represents the high value American culture places on personal independence.  We admire the rugged individualist who doesn't need anyone else, who appears self-sufficient.  [But the Lone Ranger had Tonto, so how "lone" was he really?  Is that an internal plot contradiction?]

The readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, however, do not encourage a maverick independence on the part of Christians.  We are not called to operate by ourselves, but in close connection with Christ "the vine," never being parted from him.  Because Christ identifies himself with his Church (Acts 9:4), the teaching about the vine also has implications for our relationship with Christ's body.

Friday, May 04, 2012

'I am the vine': A look at John 15 and Eucharistic echoes (podcast on the Sunday readings)

"I am the vine, you are the branches" (John 15:5). So Jesus tells us in this Sunday's Gospel. 

But what does it mean? In this podcast, we take a careful look carefully at the imagery. In particular, I discuss some of the Eucharistic echoes scholars have detected in the passage. 

Listen on iTunes or click the link below. Look for more information on this podcast over at the corresponding post at 

Feel free to leave your comments below.

Join Brant Pitre, Patrick Madrid and me in Lafayette June 23-24

Brant and I will be joined by Patrick Madrid in Lafayette, LA, for a major Catholic Bible conference on June 23-24. The conference is being put on by Fullness of Truth and is entitled, "Where is THAT in Bible?: Discovering New Testament Catholic Teaching Hidden in the Old". 

Not only will there be great speakers (don't know how I got invited!), live music--there will also be a lot of books on sale. Of course, there will also a conference hall full of enthusiastic Catholics eager to learn more about the Word of God! 

What could be more fun? 

Fullness of Truth is a fantastic organization. We are very much looking forward to this event! Hope to see you there! 

For more information, go here

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Parousia put on hold?

Follow my logic.

According to this poll: 22% of people think the end will occur within their lifetime.

Now, Jesus warns that his parousia, his second coming, will take place like a thief in the night--i.e., when no one is expecting him to come.
Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matt 24:42-44).
So, should I conclude from this that Jesus isn't coming any time soon?

[NB: Lest I get any concerned comments, this post is dripping in sarcasm.]

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Continuing the series on the text of the Bible: 

The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaA), Copied c. 125 B.C.
Of great interest to textual scholars are the Dead Sea Scrolls, the remains of an Essene library found in caves at the north-west end of the Dead Sea in the late 1940s at a site called Qumran. 

The scrolls provide our oldest copies of any portion of Scripture, including a few manuscripts that date to the third century (200s) BC. The majority, however, were copied in the period 150 BC—AD 68. All of the protocanonical books of the Old Testament are represented at Qumran except for Esther and Nehemiah; however, apocryphal books like 1 Enoch and Jubilees are better represented than most biblical books, and just as many copies of the deuterocanonical Tobit (six) were discovered as of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or Job. For this reason, as mentioned above, most scholars believe the Essene canon was significantly different than that of the Pharisees and modern Rabbinic Judaism.