I work principally with the Jewish background to the New Testament and Christianity. Having taught Scripture for over thirty-five years, and Russian literature briefly before entering the Dominicans, I am acutely aware that no amount of clever methodology can completely bridge the gap between our time and culture and that of ancient Israel or the Jews and gentiles of the first-century Near East. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we can develop a common language between us and these disparate cultures to whom God spoke in many and various ways through the prophets and through His Son. I still use the historical-critical method, recognizing that when the Word of God enters history it becomes susceptible to historical investigation. Literary criticism is important for recognizing the way in which the Word is refracted through human agents. I encourage close reading of the texts in order to appreciate how the use of language – grammar and imagery – conveys the theological and spiritual outlook of the writer. Modern and post-modern critical approaches can enhance our understanding of the audience addressed by the biblical writer and how the audience responded. Therefore, some understanding of ancient Hebrew didactic methods together with Greco-Roman rhetoric is important. It is my hope that the student will be able to incorporate the language of the Bible into his or her own language, whether they are to be catechists, preachers, teachers or work in any way to promote the power of the Word of God and the Gospel.
I believe that every human language and mode of expression is a refraction of the One Eternal Word; that there is a unity to Scripture and a larger unity of Scripture and creation; that through the interaction of Word and Spirit the world and all it holds are created and sustained in being; that the same Word and Spirit came to the prophets of Israel and the sacred writers; that the same Word and Spirit caused the Word to take flesh and dwell among us. The sacred writers of Israel knew that we live in a moral universe, one in which we are measured against a God of justice. The prophets in various ways insisted that if we do not know justice, we do not know God.
I need to keep up with professional literature. Sometimes a phrase in an article I’m reading gives me a new insight on how to present difficult texts. In class students don’t always like going through the groundwork, preferring an immediate personal response. Yet the response must be based on something more than feeling. I try to present that “something more.”
I’ve been a member of the Catholic Biblical Association since 1987. In recent years I returned to my first love, Russian literature, and have published two articles on the Russian symbolist and mystic Andrey Bely. “Chaos, Language, and Logos: How the Poet Participates in the Creating Activity of the Word in the Thought of Andrey Bely,” New Blackfriars 97 (2016), 465-478; “The Persistence of Memory: The Quest for Human Origins and Destiny in Andrey Bely’s Kotik Letaev and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life,” New Blackfriars 98 (2017), 73-89.