Dark Passages of the Bible: Engaging Scripture with Benedict XVI and St. Thomas Aquinas

Multiple gods? Divinely mandated genocide? Rejection of an afterlife? If the Scriptures are the inspired and inerrant word of God that Christians claim them to be, how can they contain these things? For many believers in the modern age, traditional Christian answers to these challenges are no longer convincing. Though spiritually edifying, they are unable to account for the sheer scope and depth of problems raised through the advent of historical-critical scholarship. Following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI, in Dark Passages of the Bible Matthew Ramage weds the historical-critical approach with a theological reading of Scripture based in the patristic-medieval tradition. Whereas these two approaches are often viewed as mutually exclusive or even contradictory, Ramage insists that the two are mutually enriching and necessary for doing justice to the Bible’s most challenging texts.

Ramage applies Benedict XVI’s hermeneutical principles to three of the most theologically problematic areas of the Bible: its treatment of God’s nature, the nature of good and evil, and the afterlife. Teasing out key hermeneutical principles from the work of Thomas Aquinas, Ramage analyzes each of these themes with an eye to reconciling texts whose presence would seem to violate the doctrines of biblical inspiration and inerrancy. At the same time, Ramage directly addresses the problems of concrete biblical texts in light of both patristic and modern exegetical methods.


“Dr. Ramage’s work is written in a very lively and accessible style, and shows obvious enthusiasm for the work of Benedict XVI and St Thomas, and how their insights and exhortations can help us move beyond any perceived impasse between Method A and Method B approaches to sacred scripture…The book would be an excellent introduction to the whole subject for, for example, seminarians, and would also help those critical of the sacred scriptures to appreciate that the church’s tradition has always recognised the obscure and sometimes alarming nature of the sacred texts.”

―Neil Ferguson

 O.P., Blackfriars Studium, Oxford

“Matthew J. Ramage undertakes an encounter with the “dark passages” of the Bible and does so with candor, depth, and profound attention to the Catholic tradition of reading Sacred Scripture. His work…comprises a thorough synthesis of historical-critical exegesis and dogmatic interpretation that greatly respects and draws upon both approaches, bringing them into a fruitful synthesis that he applies, with great benefit, to some of the most unsettling passages of Sacred Scripture.

Ramage’s work is an excellent contribution to a project that is only beginning and was indicated by Ratzinger himself as a work that woul dtake at least a generation to realize. One major benefit is that the work draws together manifold examples from Joseph Ratzinger to show how he interprets the Bible and illumines why he takes modern exegetical methods and their fruits seriously while never compromising his commitment to the Bible as the word ofGod. The courage of Ratzinger to carefully work in obedience to conciliar teaching on biblical interpretation has a subtle but powerful lesson for Catholic scholars and preachers. It is not simply a moral lesson about the virtue of obedience, but a lesson about the very relationship between faith and reason itself. In its use of Ratzinger and Aquinas, but also in Ramage’s own careful and responsible conclusions, Dark Passages is particularly helpful for revealing Catholic biblical exegesis as one very important function of that relationship. It will be an important resource for all Catholics who wish to bridge the gap into which the cursing Psalms have fallen and out of which the criticisms of the New Atheists resound incessantly.”

– Christopher T. Baglow

Notre Dame Seminary
New Orleans, Louisiana


Franciscan Way (Summer 2014): 11

First Things (April 2014): 64

Scripta Theologica 46 (April 2014): 239-40

Irish Thomist blog (November 2014)

New Blackfriars, vol. 96, issue 1061: 108–109 (January 2015)

Nova et Vetera (Spring 2016): 707-712.

Finally, thanks to Dr. Michael Barber over at The Sacred Page for listing Dark Passages of the Bible among his Top 5 Academic Reads of 2014!