Theology of the Beyond,” by Candido Pozo. Society of St. Paul/Alba House (New York: 2009). 642 pp., $34.95 pb.
While this book reviewer used to know enough about eschatology to be dangerous, he now knows a bit more. Theology of the Beyond deserves to have every one of its 642 pages read. Translated from the Spanish by Mark A. Pilon, this fifth edition of the book is one of the most thorough and best presentations on eschatology that this reviewer has seen. Besides this English translation, the book also exists in Italian and Croatian.
Pozo, a member of the Society of Jesus, makes clear in the prologue that “this is a theological text and . . . a book having a technical character.” Pilon writes that the book “is a major theological work for the 21st century that has had center stage since the mid-20th century.” In his translator’s prologue, Pilon explains that Pozo “is consciously dedicated to following the theological method proposed in Vatican II in the decree Optatum Totius, No. 16.”
After tracing the development of eschatology through the existentialist philosophy of Rudolph Bultmann and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Jürgen Moltmann’s reaction to it, Pozo presents in the first chapter what he considers to be the requirements of a renewed eschatology. He writes, “A balanced eschatology must contain the final things as its first consideration, but it should, at the same time, strive to emphasize the stance that these final realities demand from us existentially, above all because they are the object of our hope.”
He continues, “The eschatology is ‘already’ a reality in the risen Christ and has ‘already’ a beginning in us by the life of grace, to which, because it really is a life, there corresponds a definite kind of stance; nevertheless, in us the eschatological has ‘not yet’ reached its fulfillment.”
Chapter 2 is a thorough treatment of the parousia. Immortality and resurrection are discussed in chapter 3, which not only provides solid New Testament exegesis, but presents a wealth of material that can be adapted for use as funeral homilies. Pozo ties chapters 2 and 3 together when he writes, “In the New Testament, the resurrection of the dead never appears in connection with the moment of one’s natural death but rather with the specific event that we call the Parousia, and this event takes place at the end of time.” He explains: “Between death and the resurrection, we survive in a state having no corporeal element which lasts until the day of the Parousia, when we shall be clothed by the resurrected, immortal body.” He adds, “The resurrection assumes that we receive anew the same body that we had in our earthly life (and that we were temporarily dispossessed of in the situation of corporeal barrenness alluded to above), although now transformed.”
The resurrection of the dead is the topic of chapter 4. Pozo writes that “the ultimate and definitive hope of Christian eschatology always refers to the resurrection of the dead.” Later in the chapter he issues a clarification, stating, “[I]n the New Testament the resurrection is spoken about in two different ways: sometimes it speaks about the universal resurrection, and at other times about the resurrection of the just.”
In his next paragraph, Pozo further clarifies, writing: “The first way of speaking about resurrection is conceived as a precondition for the final judgment to take place, and it therefore has a neutral meaning. The second presents the resurrection as a reality that is the supreme object ofChristian hope, that is, as a participation in the resurrection of Christ grounded both in the community of life with him and in the reception of the Holy Spirit.”
For those readers who have not kept up with developments in eschatology, this tome is invaluable. The English translation presents Pozo’s writing in prose that is both elegant and accessible. TP
FATHER BOYER, a priest for 35 years, is the author of 31 books primarily in the areas of biblical and liturgical spirituality as well as numerous articles in various magazines, including The Priest, for which he wrote Homily Backgrounds 1987-1993. He teaches part-time in the Religious Studies Department of Missouri State University, Springfield, Mo.