Monthly Archives: February 2018

Fun Facts from Church History

In the 16th century a distinction was made between the ‘poor’ and the ‘deserving poor’.  In general terms, the ‘deserving poor’ were members of one’s own Church community who lived properly and dressed properly and avoided gambling and promiscuity.  These persons were granted Church aid.  The ‘poor’, i.e., unworthy beggars and members of another faith weren’t.

The unworthy sort were ‘shown the door’, so to speak, at the tip of the whip (as this delightful woodcut from the era shows) –

Moonies… Loonies: The Cult that Blessed Semi-Automatic Weapons

This is the sort of insanity that comes out when belief is untethered to a proper reading of Scripture and doctrine is abandoned for ‘feelings’.  Bloody heretics.

Moonies aren’t Christians.  Their assemblies aren’t Churches.  And their beliefs aren’t sane.

Church officials hold their AR-15-style rifles while people attend a blessing ceremony with their AR-15-style rifles at the Sanctuary Church in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania. Many celebrants wore crowns – some made of bullets – while church officials dressed in flowing bright pink and white garments to go with their armaments. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

A Teacher in Georgia With a Gun At School has Been Arrested, For Discharging It

To those who think arming teachers is sensible… if you do, expect a LOT more of this.

A teacher at Dalton High School in Dalton, Georgia is in custody after police say shots were fired on Wednesday morning. No students were hurt.  Police say the teacher barricaded themselves in a classroom. The teacher was taken into custody just before 12:30 p.m., according to Dalton police.  Dalton police have not released further details about what happened in the school.  All of the students were evacuated from the high school and are being taken to the Northeast Georgia Trade Center to be reunited with their parents.

Quote of the Day

Zwingli’s Statue at the Wasserkirche

Even if you hear the gospel of Jesus Christ from an apostle you will not follow it unless the heavenly Father teaches and draws you by his Spirit. The words are clear: God’s teaching clearly enlightens, teaches and gives certainty without any intervention on the part of human knowledge. If people are taught by God they are well taught with clarity and conviction. If they had first to be taught and assured by men, they would be more correctly described as men-taught rather than taught by God.– Huldrych Zwingli

If You’re Pro Life, Be Pro Life. But If You’re Simply Against Abortion, You Aren’t Pro Life

If you oppose abortion, how dare you support free and easy access to guns, failure to provide basic health care, rejection of immigrants, and the war-complex?   Do you not see the irrationality of your position?  Do you not sense the hypocrisy of saying that we must protect the unborn (which we MUST) and nonetheless close a blind eye to violence, greed, cruelty and misery once a person is born?

Stop pretending you’re pro life if your concern for life ends when the baby emerges from its mother’s womb.

And, oh, by the way, shame on you if you aren’t concerned for life from cradle to grave.

Biblical Canon Lists: A New Book

Larry’s take on the aforementioned tome.

Larry Hurtado's Blog

There is a recently-published valuable resource for study of the formation of the Christian biblical canons:  Edmon L. Gallagher and John D. Meade, The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity:  Texts and Analysis (Oxford University Press, 2017).  The publisher’s online catalog description is here.

The authors’ primary purpose is to lay before readers a collection of early evidence about what writings were treated as part of a canon, focusing on evidence of the first four centuries.  So, the main part of the book is given to setting out this evidence:  Jewish canon lists (chap 2), Greek Christian canon lists (chap. 3), Latin Christian lists (chap. 4), the Syriac Christian list (chap. 5), and a discussion of the writings included in selected Greek, Syriac, Latin, and Hebrew Manuscripts (chap. 6).  An Appendix gives brief information on a number of other writings that are mentioned in early sources but did not…

View original post 126 more words

Book Giveaway of The Biblical Canon Lists

It’s a great book. I’ve read it and the review should be posted next week after SECSOR (SBL Southeast).

LXX Studies

Cover Art-RevisedOver on the ETC Blog, Peter Gurry has set up a raffle for a chance to win a free copy of my and Ed Gallagher’s The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis. Click through to enter to win the book.

For more on the book, see the following links:

The ETC Blog: New Book: The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity

Ed Gallagher’s Blog: New Book: Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity

The OUPblog: The Origins of the Reformation Bible

View original post

Ladies, I’m Usually on Your Side… But, to you on this Matter, I say REPENT!

In 1674 during the great Coffee War you women were just dead WRONG!  Down with your untrue aspersions on coffee- God’s gift of goodness and joy.  Sinner women, repent!!!!!  Coffee isn’t enfeebling nor liquor!  Sinners!!!!  Away with your scandalous pamphlet and undeserved aspersions!!!!  (photos via the twitter).

The Chamber Pots of the Martyred Virgins

Always instructive, the things that Luther and his friends discussed in casual conversation cover everything one can imagine.  Including even the chamber pots treated as relics by the papists.*

On the last day of February Luther spoke of the mildness of Count Hoyer of Mansfeld. This remarkable papist had laughed at papistic abominations and had related that in a certain place the chamber pots of eleven thousand virgins had been exhibited as relics.

That’s something to laugh at that’s for sure.  A chamber pot as a martyr’s relic is funny enough.  But 11,000 of them?  That’s Pythonesque humor.

According to legend eleven thousand maidens, including St. Ursula, had been martyred at Cologne during or before the fifth century. At the close of the Middle Ages one of many associations for the encouragement of prayer was named after these alleged martyrs and called the Brotherhood of the Eleven Thousand Virgins or also, more popularly, St. Ursula’s Little Ship.

*Luther’s Table Talk.

Die Bibel: Lutherübersetzung 2017

This lovely little handbook edition of the 2017 translation of the Bible in German and published by the German Bible Society arrived from the nice folk at Hendrickson.  They’d like my take on it,  so here it is.

The present translation is the result of 2600 weeks of work by 70 translators and which was released in time for the 500th anniversary celebration of Luther’s reformatory efforts.  The language of the translation is simple, elegant, readable, and faithful to the underlying Hebrew and Greek sources and that, quite honestly, is the greatest compliment that can be paid to a version of the Bible.

A comparison between Luther’s 1545 edition and the 2017 edition (of Psalm 23) will show readers the differences quite clearly:

1545- Ein Psalm Dauids. DER HERR ist mein Hirte, Mir wird nichts mangeln. Er weidet mich auff einer grünen Awen, Vnd füret mich zum frisschen Wasser. Er erquicket meine Seele, er füret mich auff rechter Strasse, Vmb seines Namens willen.  VNd ob ich schon wandert im finstern Tal, fürchte ich kein Vnglück, Denn du bist bey mir, Dein Stecken vnd Stab trösten mich. DV bereitest fur mir einen Tisch gegen meine Feinde, Du salbest mein Heubt mit öle, Vnd schenckest mir vol ein. Gutes vnd Barmhertzigkeit werden mir folgen mein leben lang, Vnd werde bleiben im Hause des HERRN jmerdar.

2017- Ein Psalm Davids. Der HERR ist mein Hirte, mir wird nichts mangeln. Er weidet mich auf einer grünen Aue und führet mich zum frischen Wasser.  Er erquicket meine Seele. Er führet mich auf rechter Straße um seines Namens willen. Und ob ich schon wanderte im finstern Tal, fürchte ich kein Unglück; denn du bist bei mir, dein Stecken und Stab trösten mich. Du bereitest vor mir einen Tisch im Angesicht meiner Feinde. Du salbest mein Haupt mit Öl und schenkest mir voll ein.  Gutes und Barmherzigkeit werden mir folgen mein Leben lang, und ich werde bleiben im Hause des HERRN immerdar.

Elegant, accurate, intelligible.  Those are the chief benefits of the new edition.  Secondary benefits of this particular incarnation (and the German Bible Society has published a wide range of styles and types of the 2017 revised Luther Bible) are that it includes maps, charts, a brief dictionary and concordance which discusses key terms and offers indications of where those words are used within the Bible, a listing of weights and measures, and a brief chronological table.  In short, it has what you need when you read Scripture.  It also has a lovely red ribbon bookmark sewn into the binding.

As to the text itself, few footnotes are included and these are only mentions of the most important textual variants and cross references.  Psalms are found in a single column but the rest of the books are double columns per page.  The volume contains along with the ‘Protestant’ Bible the books of the Apocrypha too.  This would not surprise Luther, given the fact that his 1545 edition also contained the Apocrypha.  However, unlike the 1545 edition, which has all the apocryphal books at the end – after Revelation – the present edition has the apocryphal books in their normal ‘Catholic’ positions.

There are section headings which are very useful in guiding readers to the main ‘gist’ of the chapters.  At the beginning of each biblical book readers will also find a very broad outline of that book’s contents.

The font used is quite pleasant.  Fonts matter and this font is lovely.

Is this edition useful?  Yes, it is.  Is it worth the price?  It’s worth more than its price.  Should readers use it?  Absolutely.  Is it the best German translation?  In my view no, it isn’t.  In my estimation, the best translation of the Bible in German is the Zurich Bible of 2007/2008.  Here’s that version’s rendering of Psalm 23-

Ein Psalm Davids. Der HERR ist mein Hirt, mir mangelt nichts, er weidet mich auf grünen Auen. Zur Ruhe am Wasser führt er mich, neues Leben gibt er mir. Er leitet mich auf Pfaden der Gerechtigkeit um seines Namens willen. Wandere ich auch im finstern Tal, fürchte ich kein Unheil, denn du bist bei mir, dein Stecken und dein Stab, sie trösten mich.  Du deckst mir den Tisch im Angesicht meiner Feinde. Du salbst mein Haupt mit Öl, übervoll ist mein Becher.  Güte und Gnade werden mir folgen alle meine Tage, und ich werde zurückkehren ins Haus des HERRN mein Leben lang.

Beautiful.  Nonetheless, the Luther 2017 Bible presently under review is incredibly useful and thus thoroughly and unhesitatingly recommended.  Just be sure to get a copy of the Zurich Bible too.  Because, let’s be honest, one can never have too many editions of the Bible.  Or too many books.

If you’re keen to have it, visit Hendrickson’s chief distribution partner,

In Memoriam Martin Bucer

Bucer died on 28 February, 1551.  The early Reformation had no one more interested in unity than he.

bucer2The chief reformer of Strassburg was Martin Bucer (1491–1552). He was a native of Alsace, a Dominican monk, and ordained to the priesthood. He received a deep impression from Luther at the disputation in Heidelberg, 1518; obtained papal dispensation from his monastic vows (1521); left the Roman Church; found refuge in the castle of Francis of Sickingen; married a nun, and accepted a call to Strassburg in 1523.

Here he labored as minister for twenty-five years, and had a hand in many important movements connected with the Reformation. He attended the colloquy at Marburg (1529); wrote, with Capito, the Confessio Tetrapolitana (1530); brought about an artificial and short-lived armistice between Luther and Zwingli by the Wittenberg Concordia (1536); connived, unfortunately, at the bigamy of Philip of Hesse; and took a leading part, with Melanchthon, in the unsuccessful reformation of Archbishop Herrmann of Cologne (1542). Serious political troubles, and his resistance to the semi-popish Interim, made his stay in Strassburg dangerous, and at last impossible. Melanchthon in Wittenberg, Myconius in Basel, and Calvin in Geneva, offered him an asylum; but be accepted, with his younger colleague Fagius, a call of Cranmer to England (1549). He aided him in his reforms; was highly esteemed by the archbisbop and King Edward VI., and ended his labors as professor of theology in Cambridge. His bones were exhumed in the reign of Bloody Mary (1556), but his memory was honorably restored by Queen Elizabeth (1560).

Bucer figures largely in the history of his age as the third (next to Luther and Melanchthon) among the Reformers of Germany, as a learned theologian and diplomatist, and especially as a unionist and peacemaker between the Lutherans and Zwinglians. He forms also a connecting link between Germany and England, and exerted some influence in framing the Anglican standards of doctrine and worship. His motto was: “We believe in Christ, not in the church.”

He impressed his character upon the church of Strassburg, which occupied a middle ground between Wittenberg and Zuerich, and gave shelter to Calvin and the Reformed refugees of France. Strict Lutheranism triumphed for a period, but his irenical catholicity revived in the practical pietism of Spener, who was likewise an Alsacian. In recent times the Strassburg professors, under the lead of Dr. Reuss, mediated between the Protestant theology of Germany and that of France, in both languages, and furnished the best edition of the works of John Calvin.*

*History of the Christian church (Vol. 7, pp. 571–573).

Fun Facts From Church History… Schoolboys in Calvin’s Geneva…

According to Karin Maag-

Schoolboys were to practice the fundamentals of Reformed worship by reciting in turn Calvin’s prayer to be said before starting lessons, by engaging in an hour of psalm singing a day, and by taking turns saying the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed at the close of each day’s classes.

Those were the good old days for sure!

Crossing Traditions: Essays on the Reformation and Intellectual History in Honour of Irena Backus

Irena Backus’ scholarship has been characterised by profound historical learning and philological acumen, extraordinary mastery of a wide range of languages, and broad-ranging interests. From the history of historiography to the story of Biblical exegesis and the reception of the Church Fathers, her research on the long sixteenth century stands as a point of reference for both historians of ideas and church historians alike. She also explored late medieval theology before turning her attention to the interplay of religion and philosophy in the seventeenth century, the focus of her late research. This volume assembles contributions from 35 international specialists that reflect the breadth of her interests and both illustrate and extend her path-breaking legacy as a scholar, teacher and colleague.

Brill provided a review copy back in December and I’ve worked my way through it, delightedly.  Let me say, then, that Backus really deserves this wonderful Festschrift.  She has done so much for the field of Church History and what she has done has been so sharp that it’s hard to argue with her well deserved recognition.

The volume is comprised of the following:

À la croisée des traditions et des savoirs : notes introductives sur l’historiographie d’Irena Backus– Maria-Cristina Pitassi

Part 1. The Reformed Churches: Institutions, Policies, and Society

  • Conflict and Dissidence within the Early French Reformed Churches- Philip Benedict and Nicolas Fornerod
  • Calvin’s Creative Revision of Liturgical Time- Elsie McKee
  • Jean Calvin au miroir de l’Interim d’Augsbourg. Réactions polémiques, discours consolatoire et genèse d’un nouveau projet de réforme (1548–1550)- Nathalie Szczech
  • Les raisons d’un Bannissement (1562) : Antoine Froment, une Figure de l’implantation de la réforme à Genève, entre intégration et éviction- Geneviève Gross
  • Bèze raconte sa rencontre avec Henri Iv à l’Eluiset- Alain Dufour
  • A Quarrel between St. Rocco, a Chestnut Tree, and a Church Bell: Popularising Calvin for the Italian Reformed in the Grisons- Federico Zuliani
  • Les registres des consistoires réformés. « Lieux de mémoire » et récit collectif- Christian Grosse

Part 2. Looking over the Past: The Reception of the Church Fathers and the History of Biblical Hermeneutics

  • Erasmus (1515) between the Bible and the Fathers: Threshold of a Hermeneutic- Mark Vessey
  • Voix sans vertu. Complément à l’histoire des théologies de la Parole- Philippe Büttgen
  • Calvin’s Commentary on Psalm 1 and Providential Faith: Reformed Influences on the Psalms in English – Barbara Pitkin
  • Ésaïe 11 dans l’Esaiae prophetia d’Augustin Marlorat (1564) : quelques remarques exégétiques- Annie Noblesse-Rocher
  • Pierre Pithou, Théodore de Bèze et la chronologie des traités de Tertullien- Pierre Petitmengin-
  • Les pratiques de la lecture érudite de la Bible avant 1630- Ian Maclean
  • Le triomphe de l’église anglicane ? Johann Ernst Grabe éditeur d’Irénée- Jean-Louis Quantin
  • Notes on the Use of Irenaeus and Justin Martyr in Isaac Newton’s Of the Church- Pablo Toribio Pérez
  • The Contribution of the History of Exegesis to the History of Ideas- Mark W. Elliott

Part 3. The Reformers: Theological Views and Religious Struggles

  • Charles Quint, la peur, le sang …- Denis Crouzet
  • Huldrych Zwingli’s Dream of the Lord’s Supper- Bruce Gordon
  • Les auteurs païens dans les Colloques d’Érasme et de Maturin Cordier- Karine Crousaz
  • Le discours de Pierre Viret sur la pauvreté. Quelques réflexions sur ses influences- Claire Moutengou Barats
  • « Mieulx vault essuyvre la verité en petit nombre … » Choisir le bon côté et définir les adversaires dans l’Epistre très utile de Marie Dentière- Daniela Solfaroli Camillocci
  • Tolerant Humanists? Nikolaus Zurkinden and the Debate between Calvin, Castellio, and Beza – Ueli Zahnd
  • “Flowers Wrought in Carpets”: Looking Afresh at the Homily against Peril of Idolatrie- Antoinina Bevan Zlatar
  • The Critique of Calvin in Jansenius’s Augustinus – Ralph Keen
  • Femme qui prêche : une figure de la polémique confessionnelle au crible de Bayle- Marianne Carbonnier-Burkard
  • Who is Actually Catholic? How Our Traditional Categories Keep Us from Understanding the Evangelical Reformations- Randall C. Zachman

Part 4. Theology and Philosophy in the 16th and 17th Centuries: Arguments, Challenges, and Encounters

  • Palinodiam Canere: Rhetoric, Philosophy, & Theology in Erasmus- Brian Cummings
  • Melanchthon et l’éthique réformée. Le probleme du statut du droit naturel – Christoph Strohm
  • L’assujettissement du fils selon Calvin – Marc Vial
  • Was It Really Viral? Natural Theology in the Early Modern Reformed Tradition- Richard A. Muller
  • Leibniz’s References to St. Paul – Hartmut Rudolph
  • Houtteville et les Modernes – Carlo Borghero
  • Aux origines des Lumières. Les manuscrits philosophiques clandestins et l’histoire des idées – Gianni Paganini
  • Bibliographie d’Irena Backus
  • Index of Names

As wide ranging as the topics are, so too are the insights gained from them.  Regular readers, though, will know that my eyes were immediately drawn to the essay by Bruce Gordon on Zwingli so naturally I read it first (and I confess, I read all the English essays first and only then dove into the French, which took considerably more effort and which also deserve wider discussion than I can offer).  Gordon observes

In the story of Zwingli’s dream we find the confluence of medieval and early modern perceptions of sleep and dreaming with Reformation claims for prophetic authority.

And then

Fear, pedagogy, the cultivation of exemplary conduct, echoes of humanist vitae, and preaching were interwoven in a dream story intended to justify the reform movement and confirm Zwingli’s status.

And a bit further on

The Zwingli account, one of the first Reformation dream stories, resonates strongly with medieval hagiography: every detail of the story was carefully constructed to be interpreted in light of the final resolution, the revelation of true doctrine.

And then

True preaching, by which Zwingli’s own authority was confirmed, immediately resulted in the establishment of certainty: those students who did not understand the nature of the Lord’s Supper or the parable had the mist lifted from their eyes.

And finally

Zwingli was also making a claim against his opponent Luther, who had declared himself a prophet. The Zurich reformer was locked in battle over the interpretation of scripture, and he had to take a stand. None of this is to suggest the dream did not happen, but rather it forces us to consider how the text, which was written to make sense of the event in a way that would form the community, reflected a potent mixture of traditional beliefs and radical new ideas.

Is Gordon’s analysis correct?  Was the dream an effort to legitimize Zwngli’s understanding of the Supper and thus to legitimize his Reformation?  Probably so.  Does that mean that the dream never happened?  That we shall never know, although it has to be said that Zwingli was an honest person and it is highly unlikely that he would have simply made up such a story for manipulative purposes.  He probably had a dream and he probably felt like it accorded with his already developing understanding of the Supper.

Gordon’s analysis is superb, as is the case with the essays enclosed between these covers as a whole.   Elsie McKee and Ralph Keen do a very good job with their topics (as one would expect of such stellar thinkers).  But so do Zuliani, Vessey, Elliott (whose essay is very, very interesting indeed), and Zachmann (who has also constructed an incredibly engaging piece).  Strohm and Muller also give readers lots to consider and several things to reconsider.

Readers should also be sure to visit Backus’s bibliography.  It’s an exercise in humility for anyone who has accomplished less, and to be fair, that’s most of us.  Be sure to read this volume as a part of your own intellectual pilgrimage, and you’ll be inspired to think more deeply and write more intelligently than you ever have before.

The FS opens with a photo of the recipient/ celebrant, and so I end this brief review with the same image.  Congratulations, Professor, and congratulations to the editors and contributors of this volume:  well done, thou good and faithful servants-

irena backus

Back When the @NRA Opposed ‘Promiscuous Gun Toting’

Via Jeff Nichols on the twitter-

Karl T. Frederick, NRA president from 1934-1936, told Congress he opposed the “general promiscuous toting of guns,” which he felt “should be sharply restricted.” Frederick never argued that gun owners “prevent tyranny,” and thereby should be exempted from any regulations.

Back in the day when the NRA was sane and all of us could agree with their principles.