January 09, 2019
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
Fr. Andrew Hofer, OP discusses the formation of biblical canon during a talk at Mount Saint Mary College.
Mount Saint Mary College recently welcomed Fr. Andrew Hofer, OP to discuss the formation and impact of biblical canon. The talk was part of the college’s Catholic and Dominican Institute speaker series.
Fr. Hofer noted that there is no biblical tome that lists the books of Scripture. Without such a roadmap, how was biblical canon formed?
“The Word of God is entrusted to the Church,” Fr. Hofer explained. “It took councils, gatherings of bishops, to be able to be led by the Spirt and identify which books belong in the Bible. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the Bible in its form as we know it.”
These “Fathers of the Church,” Fr. Hofer said, “give witness to the Church’s Tradition in a way that is still important today, by considering their four defining characteristics: antiquity, holiness, orthodox teaching, and ecclesiastical approval.”
The arguments of what books belong in the Bible, he added, “show the necessity of the Church for understanding how God is revealed. Creeds and liturgies, expressive of the Word entrusted to the Church, were formulated and fixed in the Tradition that grew from what Christ gave the apostles in the Spirit.”
Among other responsibilities with the institution, Fr. Hofer is an associate professor of Patristics and Ancient Languages at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception, Dominican House of Studies, in Washington, DC. His deep understanding of linguistics has been a major boon in his study of the Bible, he said.
“A lot of people don’t have the time to study languages, but this has been something I’ve been able to do,” he said, noting how thankful he is to have gotten the opportunity. “I want to share what I’ve learned. I want people to know some of these things that could be helpful to their lives, in terms of how God has revealed himself and how we talk about God from age to age.”
But one doesn’t have to be a scholar to understand and appreciate Christianity, he said: “People can have access to God’s mind without knowing Hebrew and Greek. It’s very important to know that God wants to reveal himself to everybody, and you don’t need to be a specialist in languages to know who God is.”
The tradition of the Dominican order – of which Fr. Hofer is a member – includes respectful dialogue and the search for veritas (truth) in all facets of study and life. (As a college founded by the Dominican Sisters, the Mount Saint Mary College motto is doce me veritatem, which translates as “teach me the truth.”)
This search for truth, as well as the Dominican order’s commitment to scholarship, has inspired Fr. Hofer in his studies.
“Our order is especially dedicated to truth,” he explained. “When we consider anything, we need to consider what’s true. Jesus says the truth will set you free. The purpose of the truth is especially for our freedom, and to be able to have the courage to receive the truth and be able to be set free by that truth.”
In addition to his teaching career, Fr. Hofer’s research appears in such journals as Augustinianum, International Journal of Systematic Theology, Journal of the History of Ideas, Pro Ecclesia, The Thomist, and Vigiliae Christianae. He is the author of Christ in the Life and Teaching of Gregory of Nazianzus (Oxford Early Christian Studies), and of essays in volumes published by Catholic University of America Press, Ignatius Press, Oxford University Press, and Sapientia Press. He is the editor of Divinization: Becoming Icons of Christ through the Liturgy, Hillenbrand Books, 2015, and co-editor of the forthcoming Thomas Aquinas and the Greek Fathers, Sapientia Press.
Fr. Hofer’s talk was co-sponsored by the Mount’s Division of Philosophy and Religious Studies and Catholic and Dominican Institute (CDI). CDI promotes the Mount’s heritage of St. Dominic, advances the Dominican charism of study and service, provides a forum for discussion of contemporary ethical issues, and enhances Catholic and Jewish dialogue. The Institute welcomes persons of varied faiths and acknowledges different religious traditions as essential to the college’s intellectual and spiritual life.