Pickwick Publications of Eugene, Oregon, has recently released a book authored by Father Nathanael R. Polinski, O.S.B., assistant professor of sacred scripture at Saint Vincent Seminary. The book is based on his doctoral dissertation, completed at The Catholic University of America (CUA), Washington, D.C., and is entitled That the Scriptures Might Be Fulfilled Through Perfect Worship: An Investigation of John 19:36-37.
The book is based on the passage, “For these things happened in order that the scripture might be fulfilled: ‘a bone of him shall not be broken.’ And again another scripture says: ‘they shall look to whom they pierced.’”
Having done his licentiate of sacred theology on the preceding passage of John, 19:25-34, he began looking at the passage that followed when it came time to choose a topic for his dissertation. Aside from his own studies of the gospel, Father Nathanael had been participating in a task force of the Catholic Biblical Association that was investigating the use of the Old Testament in the Gospel of John.
“Some ideas were stirred up there,” he said, even though “there were not a lot of explicitly cited fulfillment citations in the Gospel. It was a passage I was very familiar with and I thought I knew what it meant for years. But I realized that I had not even scratched the surface.”
The book’s bibliography supports his observation, as Father Nathanael referenced more than 150 sources in his study.
“Polinski has admirably demonstrated the immense significance that the climactic double citation of Scripture in John 19:36-37 has for understanding this Gospel,” noted John Paul Heil, professor of New Testament at CUA. “His erudite, comprehensive, and well-written study will be of value to all interested not only in the Gospel of John but in the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, in audience-oriented exegesis, and in the theme of worship in the New Testament.”
Ian Boxall, associate professor of New Testament at CUA, penned in his review that “in this elegantly-written book, Nathanael Polinski demonstrates how the gradual unfolding of the theme of worship prepares the ground for understanding scriptural fulfillment in the Fourth Gospel’s passion account. Sensitive to this Gospel’s intertextual and intratextual allusions, and to ancient Jewish exegetical methods, Polinski opens up the rich potential of John’s Old Testament quotations. This is rich and insightful contribution, from an author who has drunk deeply from the Johannine spring.”
After finishing his coursework in May of 2016, Father Nathanael’s began work on his dissertation in the fall, and it was approved for defense in November of 2017. Following its completion, he returned to teach at Saint Vincent Seminary. At the same time he began editing the dissertation for the book project to make the publication more engaging for the general reader.
“The evangelist presumes knowledge of first-century Judaism, specifically the Old Testament and first-century Jewish worship,” Father Nathanael notes in the book. “This study addresses each of these. … This study will utilize information from the contexts presumed and provided by the evangelist in light of the Gospel’s proximate context of early Christian worship to provide substantial insight into the fulfillment attested by 19:36-37.”
The book’s early chapters look at the evangelist’s presumed context of worship in first-century Judaism and important contextual information that affords the audience greater insight into the Gospel passage. Then Father Nathanael delves into the purpose and characteristics of sacrificial worship, concluding with a consideration of its relationship to the ritual worship of Passover, the preeminent feast, which provides the context for the culmination of Jesus’ hour.
The hour of Jesus is a fundamental theme running throughout John’s Gospel, referring to Jesus’ glorification, in his passion and death, Father Nathanael notes.
Immediately after the culmination of Jesus’ hour, he said, John provides a unique account of things that took place following Jesus’ death, things which were important to his audience, in which he recognizes scriptural fulfillment.
“This understanding runs contrary to John’s limited use of explicit Scripture citations (compared with the other evangelists) at a most critical moment in the Gospel,” the book notes. “Rather, consistent with his allusive and engaging style, the evangelist relies on his audience to utilize the context he provides and the contexts he has presumed throughout his Gospel to perceive the depth and the expansiveness of the fulfillment he has recognized in Jesus’ hour. It is through these contexts that we gain greater insight into the fulfillment attested by John 19:36-37, illuminating Jesus’ hour and the entire Gospel.”
The book is available from Archabbey Publications, www.stvincentstore.com. Cost is $25.