As we start to publish some biblical notes connected with the readings for each Sunday’s Mass, you may want to know something about the person who is preparing them – so this is a brief introduction to both my background in scripture studies and my limitations!
I have been a member of St Peter’s for over 20 years, moving to London from the USA to live with my daughter and her family. Many of you will know the four Dicksons from their involvement in the parish; until this autumn they led the music at the 11:15 Family Mass. I am a Eucharist minister, have worked with a ‘small Christian community’, the Soup Run, and have recently started writing the Bible notes for the parish RCIA group.
I have been interested in the Bible since my late teens, but for most of my life any study was done around the edges. I am still very much an ‘amateur’ – I like the meaning behind that word, literally one who does it for ‘love’ and not as a profession. But in the 80s, I was fortunate to be able to do a MA in Applied Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. In my three years there, I took all the scripture courses I could, worked at learning the Greek in which the New Testament is written, and got a smattering of the Hebrew of the Old Testament.
I now study at home, using various books on hand and with some access to the excellent library at Heythrop College. My basic ‘checking in’ book is the New Jerome Biblical Commentary written by a number of Catholic writers to cover every book of the bible and also including a number of topical articles on many aspects of the background to the scriptures. I use it as an encyclopedia and it is a great source to compensate for my large areas of ignorance! With the four gospels especially, I have a variety of commentaries to compare. Only a small amount of all this, of course, will be taken up in these notes.
There are varied interpretations that fit into the overall Catholic faith, and I will at times be summarizing those of various scholars, choosing what appeals to me. So be aware that you may disagree and also expect that you will find insights on your own! I have been much enlightened, for example, with what was shared by others in our small community meetings. We could say the only ‘expert’ for you is yourself, listening to God as you reflect on the words of scripture.
Sharing background I have found useful will, I hope, help others who do not have time to do the research. My basic aim is to make the scriptures used at Mass easier to understand, and to open them out for readers and listeners to find how God speaks to them through the words of the inspired writers.
Questions and feedback will be welcome, as this starts as an experiment. My hope is that all of us through the Mass and the scripture will draw ever closer to the Father, Son and Spirit who reveal themselves in human words.