Like many Catholics, my memory of the ministry of Jesus is seen through Matthew’s eyes. For that reason, the daily lectionary is a great surprise and challenge as it works through Luke’s Gospel, as it does at the end of Ordinary Time each year. On the Wednesday before the Solemnity of Christ the King we hear the Parable of the Pounds. Aspects of this parable have always mystified me, and so this is a great time to do something I’ve intended to do for a long time: to examine what a certain subculture in Catholic Biblical scholarship has to say about it.
I am not aware of this subculture having a name, but it is the one that has flourished in apologetical literature since the 1990s, featuring Scott Hahn, John Bergsma, Brant Pitre, Tim Gray, Edward Sri, and many others. We have all heard some of these names. We probably all have opinions on one or more of these writers. I myself have switched opinions on them more than once! I realize that some might think of them as pseudo-academics the way that they are actively critical of the historical-critical method. My journey back to these authors, who I read around the time of my reversion to the faith and then abandoned for a while, has been due to three factors: becoming a Benedictine oblate, running the religious education at my parish, and reading a LOT of the Communio theologians during the pandemic. Through Benedictine practice I have learned to pray with scripture and realized how arid, rationalistic, and merely intellectual my reading of scripture had been, even in the time that I had been occasionally writing about it in guest columns here on Marc’s blog and earlier on Tim’s blog! Through teaching young people the faith in a rather secularized New England setting, I think I’ve become sensitive to the inroads secularism has made into our parishes, never mind the Catholic academy. Through reading figures like Benedict XVI, Hans urs von Balthasar, and Henri de Lubac I have come to admire thinkers who hearken back to older ways of reading Scripture while at the same time being intelligent and quite interested in modernity. (Near the beginning of the first volume of Balthasar’s Glory of the Lord there is an exceptionally interesting discussion comparing the work of a historical-critical exegete to that of one dissecting a body. One only dissects what is dead, he says.)
So, I wish to see what the following resources have to say about this parable:
- The Didache Bible
- The Ignatius Study Bible
- The Navarre Bible—in its St. Luke volume, in its New Testament volume, and in its expanded New Testament volume
- The Luke volume of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture by Fr. Pablo Gadenz
I hadn’t initially planned on using the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture in this activity, but I found a very interesting “suggested reading list” at the end of the introduction to the very popular Great Adventure Catholic Bible. The CCSS was there on the list, alongside such resources as biblical introductions by Edward Sri, John Bergsma, and Peter Kreeft, a book on the unity of scripture by Stephen Clark, and the Ignatius Study Bible.
Material out of this exegetical school is usually keyed to the RSV, though I predict that now that the Augustine Institute is publishing the ESV-CE, we may start seeing more of this material in the ESV.
So, we shall begin with a quick comparison of the RSV-CE and ESV-CE of Luke
As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive kingly power and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Trade with these till I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent an embassy after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingly power, he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten pounds more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound, which I kept laid away in a napkin; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank, and at my coming I should have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the pound from him, and give it to him who has the ten pounds.’ (And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) ‘I tell you, that to every one who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.’”
As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, “And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief, for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man, taking what you did not deposit and reaping what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord he has ten minas!’ I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”
The RSV-2CE has no difference from the RSV-CE that I could discern, reading both side by side. First off, the use of “pounds” rather than “minas” is an artifact of the RSV-CE’s British origin. Mina is a transliteration of the currency, which was equivalent to about three months’ wages for a laborer, according to the translation note in the ESV. This is a good example of a place where the ESV is more literal than its RSV source.
It is not usual for me to read a section of the RSV and find it a bit old fashioned, but this parable is an example. It has a collection of some of the few things that have changed between mid-20th Century English and the formal, literary English of today: 1. The shrinking of the definition of “should” over time. In this case it is changed to “might” in the ESV. 2. Napkin (RSV) changed to “handkerchief” (ESV). 3. “embassy” (RSV) changed to “delegation” (ESV). 4. “Every one” (RSV) changed to “everyone” (ESV).
Now, I cannot read Greek, nor do I know a lot about Biblical Greek, but based on the comparison, I get the sense that there are two places where the RSV might be more literal. I am thinking of its renderings of “out of your own mouth” and “lay down” for the ESV’s “with your own words” and “deposit”. Can some reader with knowledge of the situation comment on this? I suspect the RSV is more literal simply because I can’t think of either of those renderings being common English speech, so I have doubt that they are simply out of date idioms being replaced.
Stay tuned for the next segment with details on the commentaries and study bibles.
5 thoughts on “The Steubenville School and the Parable of the Pounds — Guest Post by Bob Short (Part 1)”
I’m wondering why only mostly Steubenville bible commentators were consulted for this study. Are you (Marc) also aligned with them in your orientation, like being anti-historical criticism? Why have you not considered taking up the other easily available more recent Catholic commentaries like: the New Collegeville, Paulist, and International Bible Commentary? You mentioned the luminaries of the Steubenville school and they are mostly convert Catholics. The other school and mostly pro-historical criticism are mostly those who wrote for the Paulist Biblical Commentary and are mostly cradle Catholics. For lack of better terms to distinguish them, shall we call them the Convert School and the Cradle School?
Hello, this is Bob who wrote this article for Marc’s blog. I semi-jokingly call them the Steubenville School. Yes, there do seem to be some converts in this group, but it is not entirely converts. I am not against Historical-Critical study, but I do find that it is sometimes accentuated to the detriment of the spiritual sense of the text. I have enjoyed reading some of both the Collegeville and New Collegeville commentaries. I mention in the article that I feel drawn to the work of this loose movement of expositors/biblical theologians/apologists right now for a few different reasons. Another reason that I did not get into is that the Bible in a Year podcast has built a tremendous following, and seems to be part of the same universe as the commentaries I consulted. This is where much of younger American Catholicism is going, and I’m curious about it.
I agree with the theme of your comment. To some extent, I believe the Convert School has also evolved the Protestant Sola Scripture with a “New Sola Scriptura.” Which I believe takes the three-legged school of Scripture, Teaching, and Tradition and dumps the Tradition leg. I would suggest one read: “Ineffabilis Deus-The Immaculate Conception” and “MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS-DEFINING THE DOGMA OF THE ASSUMPTION. After reading these encyclicals you will see that the Dogma’s are driven by the Traditions established by the early Fathers, not from scripture. While there are quotes from Scripture in these documents, they are not the drivers. Now read books on Marian Dogma/Devotion from the Convert School such as “Hail Holy Queen” by Hahn. First, I would say I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to others. However, its undertones of using scripture to support the above dogmas is tenuous at best.
Thank you Bob and Jim. Thanks for elaborating and clarifying. I now think the terms Convert School and Cradle School is not descriptive enough. While the majority of Catholics who strive to be nourished and ruled by sacred scriptures readily notice the different orientations of the Bible scholars and teachers of these schools, I believe we need better names to identify them and their adherents. Bob, you mentioned Steubenville to refer to what I called the Convert School. I think the Cradle School is best named with a similar sounding name to differentiate it from Steubenville, that is Collegeville. With this, let me mention one trait that differentiates them aside from their stance regarding the historical critical method, that is their preferred Bible translation. Bob, you mentioned the Steubenville School preferring the RSV-2CE and most likely will transition to ESV-CE in the near future. The Collegeville School on the other hand mainly rely on the NABRE or in some cases the NRSV – and so most likely shift into the NRSVue very soon.
Oddly, to my knowledge, I am not aware that there are other similar or different themes coming out of other Dominican, Benedictine, Jesuit schools of Theology. Perhaps it is because these centers do not publish books for the general reader nor have a significant media presence, but rather are publishing written works at a scholarly level. However, if anyone knows of common themes elsewhere, I would be interested.
In the case of the Jesuits, there probably isn’t any common theme from them because they would tell you: “If you met one Jesuit then you have met one Jesuit.”