Monday, July 1, 2013

Consuming the Word Chapter 4: The New Testament After the New Testament

In this chapter, Hahn looks at how the term "New Testament" was used for the two and a half centuries following the apostolic era.   Beginning with the early Fathers of the first two centuries, notably St. Irenaeus and St. Clement of Alexandria, Hahn shows that for the early Church the "New Covenant/Testament" was associated with the concept of a new family bond which was connected to the liturgy of the New Covenant, the Eucharist (29).  While St. Ireneaus uses the term "New Covenant" to focus on the new Christian dispensation, or family bond,  we see this connection of New Covenant and the liturgy most clearly with St. Celement.

St. Clement, in reference to the term "New Covenant/Testament," states that Christ: "made a New Covenant with us; for what belonged to the Greeks and Jews is old.  But we, who worship him in a new way, in the third form, are Christians.  For clearly, as I think, he showed that the one and only God was known by the Greeks in a Gentile way, by the Jews Judaically, and in a new and spiritual way by us (29)."  Later, Clement using athletic themes, states: "go and submit himself (Christian life) to the Word as his trainer, with Christ as the referee of the game; and for his prescribed food and drink let him have the New Testament of the Lord (28-29)."  (Keep in mind, what was discussed in previous chapters, that the term "New Covenant/Testament" is only uttered by Jesus at the Last Supper."

It is only when we get to the third century that the term "New Testament" is used for a set collection of sacred texts (30).  We see this in the writings of Tertullian and Origen.

Hahn concludes the chapter by looking at how many earlier church writers described the Eucharist in covenantal language.  He references Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Origen, Augustine, and John Damascus.  All of these Church Fathers understood that the "Eucharist was the sacrificial rite required by the covenant-and by the very nature of covenant (34)."

What are your thoughts on this chapter or from what we have read through thus far?  I am just trying to pick out a few points of interest in each chapter rather than give a comprehensive analysis of each one.


Anonymous said...


I was late in getting the book until you'd already posted the first few chapters, but I'm caught up through chapter 4 at this point.

In the "Taste and See" introduction, Hahn writes, "Some of the material is demanding, though I hope I have placed it well within reach of motivated lay readers." I think I fall into this category of readers.

With that said, so far, the book is a little too academic for my liking. I'm hoping that these first few chapters are laying the groundwork for the rest of the book.

In short, so far, for me, it's intellectually interesting, but not spiritually fulfilling.

Michael P.

Timothy said...


It has the look of the more popular style Hahn books, but I think it is indeed more in-depth and intellectual thank my of the others. Although not nearly as intellectual as his Covenant book, the Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire, or Covenant and Comminion.