Jesuit depicts Mark's Gospel as the "scariest"

Melbourne biblical scholar Fr Brendan Byrne has said that Mark's Gospel is perhaps the most frightening and most challenging of the four Gospels.

Writing in the current issue of America Magazine, he says that even a casual glance takes the reader straight into a world inhabited by demons and malign forces with which Jesus is constantly in conflict.

"This sense that the world, including Israel, had fallen under demonic control was pervasive in the context in which Mark was written," he says. "Indeed, along with many strands of Judaism of the time, the early followers of Jesus and presumably Jesus himself read the great announcements of liberation contained in the latter half of Isaiah (Isa 40-66), not primarily as references to freedom from exile in Babylon - their original sense - but in relation to freedom from this captivity to the demonic in all its multiple manifestations."

Mark is the main Gospel text in this year's cycle of Sunday Mass readings.

"Mark has a distinctive voice and a message particularly attuned to address the darkness of unbelief and despair that characterises so much of human living today," said Fr Byrne.

"A century and a half ago, in scholarly circles at least, the second Gospel underwent notable rehabilitation. Mark, it was widely agreed, was the earliest written Gospel, the source for much of Matthew and Luke."

"Further revision brought acknowledgement of the theological richness of its author and, more recently, appreciation of the narrative as a literary composition of no little sophistication and skill," he said.

Fr Byrne, who is a former member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, teaches at the United Faculty of Theology in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, a book on practical theology has been launched at the Australian Catholic University (ACU National) in Brisbane.

Practical Theology: On Earth as it is in Heaven, is the title of the book which was launched by ACU National Professor of Law Prof Frank Brennan on behalf of the author, ACU National Head of School of Theology, Dr Terry Veling.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Veling described what he considered practical theology was all about.

"Practical theology is a choice to practice a theological way of life. It is a choice or a decision that doesn't come at the end of a process like an outcome, but rather stands at the beginning, like a true test of faith."

Dr Veling said the question that people needed to ask themselves was, "Can I practice this way of life?"

Speaking about preparing the book, Dr Veling said that writing for him was not merely an academic exercise but also an exercise in prayer. "Writing is an act of faith," he said. "Like any act of faith, writing is also full of surprises".

The Scariest Gospel (America Magazine 29/5/06)
Book launched at ACU National explores practical theology (Australian Catholic University 23/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Jesuit Theological College - Fr Brendan Byrne SJ
Practical Theology: On Earth as It Is in Heaven (Orbis Books)
ACU National

24 May 2006