Category Archives: Book Review

A Review of the DBG’s Facsimile Edition of Luther’s 1545 ‘Biblia Germanica’

Published in 2017 for the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, this facsimile edition is an exact replica of Luther’s 1545 German Bible.  And the 1545 German Bible is Luther’s best edition, far superior to the two volume 1534 edition and much better than any of the earlier incarnations of Luther’s version.

This edition is distributed in North America by Hendrickson Publishers, as are all of the German Bible Society’s volumes.

Luther’s translation of the Bible alone makes him a figure of importance and it is not at all difficult to muster the argument that of all the works of Luther, it is the most significant.  To be sure, his great books of 1520 stand as monuments to the beginning of the Reformation and will always be valued for that historical reason alone.  But of Luther’s lasting contributions to Christian theology, they pale in importance to Luther’s rendition of Scripture.

The present facsimile edition is unaltered from its original form with only one exception: the ‘afterword’ provided by the German publisher.  Everything else, from font to woodcuts to prefaces and forwards are all exactly as published in 1545, a year before Luther’s death.  Those seeking Luther’s most mature thought on Amos or Hosea need simply read the preface he provides to those books (and all the rest).  Luther’s Preface to the Old Testament is still one of the best ‘introductions’ to the Old Testament to this very day as is his Preface to the New Testament to New Testament studies.  Luther was at his best and brightest when working directly with Scripture.  Would that he had avoided some of his more controversial efforts and simply stuck with exegesis; what a legacy he would have left behind.

The volume presently under discussion also comes beneficially ensconced in a very sturdy box and comes bound in a lovely and sturdy beige cloth cover.  The paper used in this edition is substantial and the volume thereby avoids the easy creasing so common to bibles published with paper which bleeds through.

The price is not exorbitant for the quality or historical significance of the volume though doubtless many will wish it were less expensive than it is.  Nonetheless, you ‘get what you pay for’ and the quality and importance of this facsimile are well worth the cost.  If potential buyers are stymied by the price, I would advise that they sell their collection of NT Wright’s works or their Joel Osteen volumes for whatever they can get for them and buy this instead.  It’s far more deserving of a place on your shelves and you’ll get more out of if in terms of theological education than either of those modern authors could proffer in all of their books combined together.

What follows below are a series of photos I snapped to provide readers with visuals of this fantastic and highly important and wonderfully accessible Bible.

I could recommend this edition with more than glowing words but I think it speaks for itself.  Students of the Reformation; students of the Bible; and people who love fantastic books will want it.  Crave it.  Need it.  Get it.

Gerechtigkeit verstehen

04916_landmesser_popkes_gerechtigkeitMenschliches Leben kann sich nur dort zum Guten entfalten, wo auch Gerechtigkeit herrscht. Was aber ist Gerechtigkeit? Ganz selbstverständlich fordern wir Gerechtigkeit in allen Bereichen unseres Lebens. Um Gerechtigkeit aber auch zur Geltung zu bringen, ist eine grundsätzliche Verständigung darüber erforderlich, was wir unter Gerechtigkeit verstehen wollen.

Diesem Leitthema widmete sich die 18. Jahrestagung der Rudolf-Bultmann-Gesellschaft für Hermeneutische Theologie e. V., deren Erträge durch den vorliegenden Sammelband dokumentiert werden.

Mit Beiträgen von Hermann Spieckermann, Christof Landmesser, Angelika Neuwirth, Rainer Marten, Tom Kleffmann und Bischof Otfried July.

The papers herein were read at the 2016 Rudolf-Bultmann-Gesellschaft that met in Bad Herrenalb.  In total six essays plus an introduction comprise the substance and each addresses the theological concept of ‘righteousness’ from a particular perspective.  Accordingly, the first, by H. Spickermann is an investigation of the concept in the Old Testament. The second, by Landmesser sees the concept through the lenses of Matthew and Paul. The third steps away from the Bible and thinks about the subject from the point of view of the Koran whilst the fourth widens the vista further by broadly discussing the question of righteousness itself.

In chapter 5, T. Kleffmann returns to a consideration of the subject from a theological perspective- particularly from the point of view of Pauline studies and the last chapter F. July attempts to bring the subject to bear on present churchly practice among the Diaconate.

I am happy to confess the first two chapters are nearer my own interests than the others, which is why I am pleased to have encountered those first two and the latter four, for they broaden the reader’s perspective exponentially. I know virtually nothing of the Koran so that I cannot rightly analyze the contents of that chapter and nonetheless am glad to have read it simply because it is so very instructive. Indeed, perhaps Jewish/ Christian/ and Muslim dialogue should and can begin with a colloquium on the subject of ‘righteousness’.

When the Bultmann-Gesellschaft holds its annual meetings the scholars presenting always bring intriguing and helpful ideas to the table.  The publication of those proceedings by the Evangelische Verlagsanstalt Leipzig should be greeted with appreciation as they allow the entire interested theological public to ‘sit in’ on the sessions even if they cannot do so literally.

Biblia Germanica

Hendrickson have published the brilliant Biblia Germanica, Luther’s 1545 edition of the German Bible.

No other German book has exercised for centuries such a profound effect on the German language as the German Bible of Martin Luther. Over time other German translations appeared, and in the present we see an almost bewildering abundance of new translations, but the Luther Bible launched the progression of the German language. In addition, the Luther text set binding standards for dealing with the biblical word. The output is one column set, with the exception of the Psalter and the Proverbs of Solomon, which are in two columns. This print is a replica of the 1545 Luther Bible, of which only two originals are left. This replica maintains the numerous wood cuts, headings, and explanatory notes of Luther.

They’ve sent along, with excessive kindness, a review copy.  More anon- and here it is in its box and shrink wrap:

CHRISTIANITY IN EURAFRICA: A History of the Church in Europe and Africa

Nothing has bound Africa and Europe more together than the history of Christianity. From Paradise onwards, the Church has been the communion of believers. As the Body of Jesus Christ she started in Jerusalem. Through the proclamation of the Gospel the Church soon reached parts of Africa and the Atlantic Coast, from where – after the Middle Ages and particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries – she took deep root in Sub-Saharan Africa. Today, in post-modern times, African Christianity is being challenged to re-plant the Church in secularized Europe.  

This textbook for learners and teachers of the History of the Church focuses on the West and the South, on Europe and Africa, the continents whose histories have been increasingly intertwined since Antiquity. Since the 1960s, the classical dependence of the South on the North has changed dramatically. There is a clear shift in the centre of gravity of Christianity from the north to the south Atlantic, making African Christianity increasingly important. The future of European Christianity largely depends on a much-needed shift to mission-mindedness in the African churches.

I genuinely enjoyed Stephen’s earlier book on Christian Zionism so I’m looking forward to reading this, which he’s sent along for review.

Petrus Dathenus und der Heidelberger Katechismus

9783525552476Der Heidelberger Katechismus zählt zu den zentralen Lehr- und Bekenntnisschriften des reformierten Protestantismus. Bei seiner Abfassung wurde in nicht unerheblichem Maße auf Stoff aus älteren Katechismen reformierter Prägung zurückgegriffen. Neben dem großen und dem kleinen Katechismus von Zacharias Ursinus (1534–1583) und dem Genfer Katechismus Johannes Calvins (1509–1564) sind dies insbesondere eine Reihe niederländischer bzw. niederdeutscher Katechismen. Die Rezeption letzterer wird in der Forschungsliteratur häufig auf den Einfluss einer Gruppe niederländischer Glaubensflüchtlinge zurückgeführt, die 1562 im leerstehenden Kloster Frankenthal in der Kurpfalz Asyl fanden.

Der Prediger dieser Gruppe, Petrus Dathenus (1531/32–1588) steht dabei exemplarisch für die (west-)europäische Ausrichtung der Kurpfälzischen Politik in der zweiten Hälfte des 16. Jahrhunderts: Als Theologe setzte er sich intensiv für die Verbreitung des Heidelberger Katechismus in der Niederlande ein, als Gesandter des Kurfürsten versuchte er, Einfluss auf die spannungsreiche politische Lage in seinem Heimatland zu nehmen.Tobias Schreiber untersucht die Frage, ob es tatsächlich jener Petrus Dathenus war, der die spezifisch niederländische bzw. niederdeutsche Katechismustradition in den Entstehungsprozess des Heidelberger Katechismus einbrachte und so den konfessionellen Wandel in der Kurpfalz um 1563 mitprägte. Der Autor nimmt dabei auch die 1563 kurz nach dem Katechismus veröffentlichte Kurpfälzische Kirchenordnung in den Blick.

V&R continue to bring to press volumes which expand our understanding of the Reformation by introducing a wider public to the life and work of generally unknown scholars.  This revised dissertation continues that tradition.

Tobias Schreiber first brings to our attention the status questionis and then launches straightaway into an examination of Dathenus’ pilgrimage from papacy to Reformed and his sojourn in London where he learned the faith more deeply and commenced in seriousness his own theological work.  From there we follow Dathenus’ further theological development as it is evidenced in his various compositions.

Throughout the volume the importance of various theological traditions is on full display.    More precisely, it is shown that one of the Reformed tradition’s most underrated thinkers was the product of many giants upon whose shoulders he stood.  We are privy to the truth that no person is influenced only by one idea or one document.  That is certainly true of Dathenus, whose own thought is shown to be the consequence of the blending of many streams of theological influence.

This is shown by copious documentation and by the frequent setting side by side of various theological texts along with Dathenus’ own works.  The result is a very fine study worthy of scholarly attention.  And Dathenus is very much worth reading in and of his own right.  He opines

Vom Anfang der Erneuerung des Evangeliums an haben sie (sc. die Evangelischen) alle übereinstimmend gelehrt, dass Christus das eine Haupt, Fundament, der eine König, Lehrer und Priester der Kirche sei, durch den die Gläubigen umsonst, allein aus Glauben ohne jede Werke von Gott gerecht gesprochen würden […]. Sie lehrten, dass die Kanonische Schrift vollständig [integram] und vollkommen [perfectam] sei, und dass in ihr nichts, was zum wahren Glauben und zur wahren Frömmigkeit notwendig ist, ausgelassen sei – dass ihr nichts hinzugefügt werden braucht noch kann: Dies bekennen sie bis jetzt offen (p. 193).

Or this:

„So definiere ich die Kirche: Die sichtbare Kirche Christi ist die Versammlung all jener sowohl wahrhaft Gläubiger als auch Heuchler, die das reine Evangelium bekennen, wobei sie die unreine Lehre fliehen, Christus als das eine und höchste Haupt, als Heiland, Priester und Mittler anerkennen und die Sakramente und die von Christus übergebenen Schlüssel recht gebrauchen“ (p. 194).

And the discussion of the Scriptures (on pages 198ff) is simply brilliantly insightful.  Proving, yet again, that anything we might say about theological matters has already been said long ago, and better; and all we need do is comb the archives to discover the un-mined riches of our own theological tradition.

A Dutch Historian Reviews “The Commentary”

Read it here.  Or enjoy the English version below:

The humanities are, essentially, a pedagogical program. The study of history and foreign cultures serves to help us understand our own civilization and age a bit better, helps us recognize our own prejudices, and puts our own ideas in a different perspective. Besides, the humanities can be great fun.

Because it would be unfair if only academics benefit from the humanities, academics are supposed to transfer their insights to society, but – pace authors like Eric Cline – this duty is seriously neglected. Stripped of their pedagogical essence, the humanities have become sterile activities. The government can stop financing them and no one would really notice, because we lost the humanities a long time ago. For various reasons, other disciplines have suffered from a similar loss of significance. In religious studies, however, there are some interesting initiatives, initiatives that may also be useful among the humanities.

One of these initiatives is the commentary on the Bible by Jim West, a theologian who is lecturer in Biblical and Reformation Studies at Ming Hua Theological College in Hong Kong and is also Pastor of a Baptist Church in Petros, Tennessee.

In his commentary, West explains every chapter from Genesis to Revelation to “the person in the pew”: the ordinary member of a church, who, when reading the Bible, encounters a desperately foreign culture and therefore needs some guidance to understand it. This fact applies to every ancient text and therefore, the success of West’s commentary shows me, a historian of the ancient world, a road to take to give the humanities back their lost pedagogical essence.

West’s approach is straightforward: he offers the Bible in a translation (American Standard Version) and interrupts the narrative every now and then to explain a couple of verses. His comments are aimed “at English speaking and reading members of the community of faith”: in other words, he makes the ancient texts accessible for believers. His approach can be applied to other ancient authors as well, such as the Epic of Gilgameš, the Iliad, Herodotus, Caesar, Suetonius, or Augustine.

That would even be quite easy. If I were to write a West-like commentary on Caesar’s Gallic War, I would have to make sure that a modern reader receives some background knowledge so that he may understand what Caesar takes for granted and can understand and enjoy the dictator’s writing. Such a commentary would not be easy to write, but it is a straightforward job. As a pastor, West has an additional task: he needs to present the text in such a way that the faithful can use the Bible as a guideline. As I said, West’s approach is straightforward. The fact that he succeeds is encouraging for everyone who thinks that the study of ancient texts is meaningful.

Back to West’s commentary, which was not written to show ancient historians how to regain purpose, but is intended as a means of pastoral care. I am no theologian and cannot judge the theological merits, but I can say that it is a pleasant read. I am currently reading a text I know quite well, Daniel, and West has pointed out many aspects I had not recognized before. The PDFs of West’s Commentary for the Person in the Pew are on my tablet, allowing me to go through the entire Bible when my train is delayed or has been cancelled. Given the quality of Dutch public transport I expect to have renewed my encounter with the Bible within a few months.

Jona Lendering
Historian

From Jesus to his First Followers: Continuity and Discontinuity

Brill have sent a review copy of this new volume:

54589From Jesus to His First Followers examines to what extent early Christian groups were in continuity or discontinuity with respect to Jesus. Adriana Destro and Mauro Pesce concentrate on the transformation of religious practices. Their anthropological-historical analysis focuses on the relations between discipleship and households, on the models of contact with the supernatural world, and on cohabitation among distinct religious groups. The book highlights how Matthew uses non-Jewish instruments of legitimation, John reformulates religious experiences through symbolized domestic slavery, Paul adopts a religious practice diffused in Roman-Hellenistic environments. The book reconstructs the map of early Christian groups in the Land of Israel and explains their divergences on the basis of an original theory of the local origin of Gospels’ information.

More in the not too distant future.

A History of Biblical Israel

knaufThis new book from Equinox is excellent.  Indeed, it is the finest history of Israel written in the last 5 decades.

There was probably only one past, but there are many different histories. As mental representations of narrow segments of the past, ‘histories’ reflect different cultural contexts and different historians, although ‘history’ is a scientific enterprise whenever it processes representative data using rational and controllable methods to work out hypotheses that can be falsified by empirical evidence.

A History of Biblical Israel combines experience gained through decades of teaching biblical exegesis and courses on the history of ancient Israel, and of on-going involvement in biblical archaeology. ‘Biblical Israel’ is understood as a narrative produced primarily in the province of Yehud to forge the collective memory of the elite that operated the temple of Jerusalem under the auspices of the Achaemenid imperial apparatus. The notion of ‘Biblical Israel’ provides the necessary hindsight to narrate the fate of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah as the pre-history of ‘Biblical Israel’, since the archives of these kingdoms were only mined in the Persian era to produce the grand biblical narrative. The volume covers the history of ‘Biblical Israel’ through its fragmentation in the Hellenistic and Roman periods until 136 CE, when four Roman legions crushed the revolt of Simeon Bar-Kosiba.

ISD has sent a copy which arrived at the end of last month and I’ve read through it and offer below my thoughts on the volume.

First, it is comprised of three major divisions: The Pre History of Biblical Israel; The formation of Biblical Israel in Yehud and Samaria in the Persian Period; and The disintegration of Biblical Israel.    There are, as well, the usual preface, introduction, appendix, indices, and numerous illustrations (53 of them plus 5 tables to be precise).  The full table of contents can be viewed at the link above.

The introduction delineates the time-span of the study, defines terms like Israel, and history, and history of Israel as well as notions and ideas.  Each chapter following begins with an italicized central thought which then is fully explicated in the associated chapter.  So, for example, chapter one’s heading reads thusly:

The relations of Egypt with Canaan in the Late Bronze Age establish the framework for development in the Iron Age (p. 29).

Chapter two commences:

The rise of proto-Israelite tribes in the Central Palestinian Range is placed in the context of Canaanite revival spurred by the exploitation of copper mines in the Arabah following the collapse of the first Mediterranean economic system (p. 42).

And such brief snippets occur throughout.  Which brings me, conveniently, to the greatest feature of the present work: unlike so many ‘Histories of Israel’ this volume is not merely a dry retelling of the events of the biblical text (as though that were actual historical reconstruction).  No, here readers will discover actual history.  The who, what, when, and where of the events experienced by ancient Israel are on full, cogent, coherent display.  In short, actual history is to be found here and not the pious repetition of the biblical narrative.  John Bright, and to a lesser extent every history of Israel written in the last 50 years has done nothing more than repeat the Bible and toss in a bit of Egyptian and Mesopotamian history.  That is not the case here.  Thankfully.

Rather, then, than focusing on the biblical narrative, our authors deliver a historical reconstruction which investigates the economical and societal reasons for the shifting sands of the ancient near eastern political world and the impact those economic and social events had on the people we know as Ancient Israel.

To be sure, the biblical text is not ignored.  How could it be?  Rather, it is integrated into the social-critical approach utilized by our authors.  So, for instance,

According to the biblical scenario, 720 BCE closed the unfortunate parenthesis opened by Jeroboam I.  The “fall” of Israel only marks the end of the kingdom, but from the point of view of the biblical writers, it allowed them to ignore further events to the north of Benjamin and to turn their full attention to Jerusalem and, to a lesser extent, on the Edomites and Arabs (p. 115).

Alongside the extraordinary content the authors also offer – from time to time – pithy phrases that stick to the brain.  One of my favorite is their lovely ‘Baal allergy’ in reference to Israel’s Prophets’ attitude towards Baalism.

The bibliography at the conclusion of the volume and the appendix which offers readers a comparative table of Israelite/Judean monarchs and their dates are both very helpful.

This book, as I said above, is truly the best history of Israel written in the last 5 decades.  Readers will benefit from it and it should find its place in every biblical scholar’s library and at every institution of higher education where biblical studies or religion are taught.

The People’s Book: The Reformation and the Bible

9780830851638Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses caught Europe by storm and initiated the Reformation, which fundamentally transformed both the church and society. Yet by Luther’s own estimation, his translation of the Bible into German was his crowning achievement.

The Bible played an absolutely vital role in the lives, theology, and practice of the Protestant Reformers. In addition, the proliferation and diffusion of vernacular Bibles—grounded in the original languages, enabled by advancements in printing, and lauded by the theological principles of sola Scriptura and the priesthood of all believers—contributed to an ever-widening circle of Bible readers and listeners among the people they served.

This collection of essays from the 2016 Wheaton Theology Conference—the 25th anniversary of the conference—brings together the reflections of church historians and theologians on the nature of the Bible as “the people’s book.” With care and insight, they explore the complex role of the Bible in the Reformation by considering matters of access, readership, and authority, as well as the Bible’s place in the worship context, issues of theological interpretation, and the role of Scripture in creating both division and unity within Christianity.

On the 500th anniversary of this significant event in the life of the church, these essays point not only to the crucial role of the Bible during the Reformation era but also its ongoing importance as “the people’s book” today.

Part I: Access and Readership
1. Teaching the Church: Protestant Latin Bibles and Their Readers- Bruce Gordon
2. Scripture, the Priesthood of All Believers, and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14 – G. Sujin Pak
3. Learning to Read Scripture for Ourselves: The Guidance of Erasmus, Luther, and Calvin – Randall Zachman
4. The Reformation and Vernacular Culture: Wales as a Case Study – D. Densil Morgan

Part II: Transmission and Worship
5. The Reformation as Media Event – Read Mercer Schuchardt
6. The Interplay of Catechesis and Liturgy in the Sixteenth Century: Examples from the Lutheran and Reformed Traditions – John D. Witvliet
7. Word and Sacrament: The Gordian Knot of Reformation Worship – Jennifer Powell McNutt

Part III: Protestant-Catholic Dialogue
8. John Calvin’s Commentary on the Council of Trent – Michael Horton
9. The Bible and the Italian Reformation – Christopher Castaldo
10. Reading the Reformers After Newman – Carl Trueman

Part IV: The People’s Book Yesterday and Today
11. From the Spirit to the Sovereign to Sapiential Reason: A Brief History of Sola Scriptura – Paul C. H. Lim
12. Perspicuity and the People’s Book – Mark Labberton

When people of the stature of JB say things like “This valuable collection of essays from an excellent group of scholars does a superb job of covering topics ranging from Latin Bibles to vernacular culture, perspicuity, and reading the Reformers after Newman. A great mix of historical and theological material and a pleasure to read.” —Jon Balserak

And Karin Maag says “Sola Scriptura, ‘Scripture alone’: these words still resonate over the centuries since the early 1500s. No single scholar can do justice to the complex history of the Bible and its impact in the Reformation era. Fortunately, Jennifer Powell McNutt and David Lauber have assembled a top-notch team to provide a rich feast of insights on the Bible in the Reformation era and beyond. From regional studies to carefully crafted reflections on the Bible and authority or worship, this book offers timely guidance for all who want to understand the roots of Protestant engagement with Scripture.” —Karin Maag

Then you know this will very much be a book worth reading. I’ve been sent a prepublication copy and I’m diving in now.  The review will appear later on in Relegere.

The Reformation Then and Now: 25 Years of Modern Reformation Articles Celebrating 500 Years of the Reformation

9781619708907oHendrickson has sent a review copy of this new volume of collected essays:

What caused Luther, Calvin, and others to set in motion the Reformation—and what are the consequences, both then and now? Is the 500-year-old breach between Rome and the Protestant church still necessary today? Does the Reformation even matter anymore?

The Reformation, Then and Now is a compendium of articles—gathered from the pages of Modern Reformation magazine—that illuminate the history and impact of the Protestant Reformation over the past 500 years. Although the questions above don’t have easy answers, over forty articles written by some of the most trusted voices across the Reformation spectrum offer readers a historical and spiritual walk through the Reformation by addressing the cause, the characters, and the consequences.

At the very start I have to say that I am a bit displeased with Horton and Landry, the editors of the volume.  At the conclusion of the volume they include a section which they call ‘Who were the Reformers’, a sort of very brief bio for each of the people they deem noteworthy. They then list Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, Bullinger ,Cranmer, Latimer, and Knox.  They completely ignore Oecolampadius (why not him instead of Melanchthon) and Zwingli not to mention any women of reformational substance.  You’ll be unsurprised to know that this failure, this abject and miserable shortsighted failure to include Zwingli is inexcusable.  Only someone utterly unfamiliar with the history of the Reformation could leave Zwingli off any list of major Reformers.  This lack of insight bodes ill for the editorial guidance of the volume.

Add to that fact the even more incredible fact that of the 42 essays included from the pages of Modern Reformation (the original source of all of these essays) not a single one explicitly deals with any aspect of Zwingli’s work whilst many discuss both Luther and Calvin and the sad result is a volume which is editorially poor.

The contributors, by and large, on the other hand, are quite outstanding in terms of their scholarly reputations.  Indeed, worthy of special note are Veith’s “The Reformation and the Arts” (pp.159ff), McGrath’s “The State of the Church Before the Reformation” (pp. 9ff), and MacCulloch’s “Against the Weber Thesis” (pp. 176ff).  These three essays are – to make use of an overused but in this case true cliche- worth the price of admission.    Horton seems to admire his own work very much and as co-editor he includes 12 of his own essays; i.e., nearly a quarter of the volume is his.  Evidently it was somewhat difficult to find other essays by other authors of “Modern Reformation” to include.

Only one woman’s essay is included (Serene Jones, “Calvin and the Continuing Protestant Story” (pp. 246ff)) in the work and this too is cause for concern.  There are brilliant women who also happen to be Reformation scholars.  Are none of them invited to write for Modern Reformation or were their essays deemed unworthy so that Horton’s could find a home here?  Where is Elsie McKee?  Where is Rebecca Gieselbrecht?  Where is Amy Nelson Burnett?  Their absence is, frankly, astonishing.  Have they never published in Modern Reformation?  Reading about the Reformation without taking notice of their work is like reading about 20th century Christian theology without ever hearing mention Barth or Brunner.  It is, to be concise, jarring.

Still, I enjoyed this volume a great deal and appreciate Hendrickson for publishing such a fine collection of materials sure to engage students of the history of Christianity in a useful and informative way.    An index would have been useful but I understand its absence and cannot quibble with that too much.

Unfortunately, then, in something of a Summa Summarum, I have to register, for the sake of honesty and truthful evaluation, my tremendous disappointment at the volume’s editors for what can only be described as a work that on the whole is quite inadequate.  , not because of the core content but because of the poor decisions which can only fairly be laid at the editors feet.  Perhaps other editors would have chosen more wisely not only the essays they included so as to provide a far more well rounded work, but the editorial guidance such a volume ought to provide.

This volume should be read, even if the editorial Preface is skipped and the appendices are left aside, given their being tragically misleading thanks to what they exclude rather than what they include. At the end of the day, readers will learn more than they will lose due to the shortsightnedness of the editors.

«Hör nicht auf zu singen» : Zeuginnen der Schweizer Reformation

9783290178505Welche Rolle spielten Frauen während der Reformation? Was bedeutete es für Katharina Schütz Zell oder Idelette de Bure, «Gefährten im Dienst» zu sein? Und inwiefern war Margarete Blarer aus Konstanz eine Ausnahmeerscheinung?

Zum 500-Jahr-Jubiläum der Reformation haben Autorinnen und Autoren die Frauen und ihre Anliegen im Blick und lenken die Aufmerksamkeit auf überraschende Aspekte der Sozialgeschichte. Neben Zeugnissen von selbständigen Frauen wird dem Einfluss der Reformation auf die Frauen- und Männerrolle sowie auf das Ehe- und Familienverständnis Raum gegeben. Neue Ehe- und Gesellschaftsideen und deren Wirkung kommen ebenfalls zur Sprache. Nicht zuletzt ist es ein Buch über die tragischen Schicksale von prominenten, aber auch völlig unbekannten Frauen, die der Reformation zum Opfer fielen.

Mit Beiträgen von Karla Apperloo-Boersma, Urte Bejick, Christine Christ-von Wedel, Rebecca Giselbrecht, Isabelle Graesslé, Susan Karant-Nunn, Elsie McKee, Helmut Puff, Sabine Scheuter, Kirsi Stjerna.

TVZ has graciously sent a copy for review without any expectations concerning the review’s negative or positive take on the volume.

Everyone is familiar with the chief (male) protagonists of the Reformation: Zwingli, Calvin, Luther, Melanchthon, Bucer, Oecolampadius, etc.  And some folk have heard of Anna Zwingli or Katie Luther.  But few have ever had the opportunity of being exposed to the chief women of the Reformation.

Who they were and what they did matters, so this is a welcome volume.  It isn’t, though, simply a series of biographies of women; rather it investigates the broader question of women during the Reformation and their contributions to it.

The first section of the volume, then, intriguingly introduces the significance of witnesses of various sorts to the Reformation.  The second turns to an investigation of Reformation thought and women, with particular emphasis on Erasmus’s views on women and 16th century portraits of important women.

The third segment is more extensive than the previous as it concerns the witnesses of the Swiss Reformation who happen to have been women and how they ‘feed’ the ‘river’ of Reformation thought.   Here we are treated to the life stories of Katharina Zell, Idelette de Bure, Ursula Jost, Margaretha Preuss, Marie Dentiere, and Margarete Blarer.

The final section widens the focus once more to bring us full circle with its discussion of men and women as men and women during the 16th century.

The volume concludes with a bibliography and table of images as well as very brief bylines of the volume’s numerous contributors.

The Reformation is big business these days.  Luther especially is being treated to more publicity than he’s had since 1521.  It is, accordingly, very important that we be reminded that the Reformation wasn’t just about men, nor were its most important actors always men.  The Reformation was a massive event which necessitated the participation of armies of theologians and supporters.  They are often forgotten but they shouldn’t be.

This book serves the purpose of reminding us that women played an invaluable role in the most important theological movement since the days of the Apostles.  The authors and editors are to be thanked for it and so is the publisher, for realizing both the importance of the topic and the need for it to be disseminated.

I recommend this book without reservation.

Storing, Archiving, Organizing: The Changing Dynamics of Scholarly Information Management in Post-Reformation Zurich

97889Storing, Archiving, Organizing: The Changing Dynamics of Scholarly Information Management in Post-Reformation Zurich is a study of the Lectorium at the Zurich Grossmünster, the earliest of post-Reformation Swiss academies, initiated by the church reformer Huldrych Zwingli in 1523. This institution of higher education was planned in the wake of humanism and according to the demands of the reforming church. Scrutinizing the institutional archival records, Anja-Silvia Goeing shows how the lectorium’s teachers used practices of storing, archiving, and organizing to create an elaborate administrative structure to deal with students and to identify their own didactic and disciplinary methods. She finds techniques developing that we today would consider important to understand the history of information management and knowledge transfer.

It may not sound like the most exciting title but the topic is a really important one and I’m very appreciative of Brill for sending a copy for review which you can read below and be sure to check out the book’s associated webpage.  It is loaded with absolutely fantastic materials and sources.

After illustrating why Zurich is such a fine case study for the dissemination of knowledge in the 16th century, G. moves to a description of European higher education and how Zurich both fits and breaks the mold.  This is followed by a discussion of the Zurich school regulations which is itself followed by a discussion of school governance and record keeping.

The fourth part of the book is, in my mind, the heart of it for here G. describes course lectures and course textbooks.  A conclusion draws together the consequences for historical research of all of these facts and materials.

Important appendices round the volume out.  These include an appendix listing Academic Directors, Teachers and Students at the Lectorium and Documents Pertaining to the Grossmünster Stift’s School Regulations as well as School Minutes and finally, Textbooks.

The volume also contains 18 figures and 4 tables.  And, according to the author, is the first volume of two planned:

A second volume in preparation focused on the students will look closely at matriculation lists and life documents, students’ notebooks and annotations, and their letters. Finally, in the next volume I will also examine their lectures, sermons, and written books as adults, asking what influence the school had on the creation of a knowledge society.

I’m very keen to read that additional material given the very engaging material presented in this volume.

The great benefit of the volume at hand is its enriching provision of primary source materials (as collected in the appendices).  The importance of primary sources need not be repeated here since all know their value.  Suffice it to say, when researchers have the ability to ‘check out’ the materials presented in the body of the text with their own eyes because those primary sources are provided, research past is reinforced and research future is enhanced.  Here’s a short sample:

Acta der schulherren by verwaltung // Josiae Simleri anno 1564 // Aprilis 26. Alß von unseren gnadigen herren … den // 16 aprilis in gmeiner Censur bewilliget worden ettliche // knaben von dem frawenmünster gen wandlen zu schicken // und benamset wurdent Samuel fattlin, Josue Vuaekerling, Hans // heinrich wirt, Joseph Breitenwaeg, Hanß Großman, hatt man // geordnet daß Samuel Fattli und Josue Vuaekerling gen bern // und di übrigen dry gen Losanna zügind, und sol… sij commen, // diavon gen bern herr hansen haller gen Losanna herr Blasio // Marcuardo und den selbigen ir gelt zuschiken, welches auch // von mir beschahen ist. //

Studies based on primary sources are always superior to studies based on the mere collection of secondary sources.  Indeed, a look at most academic work today reveals that many scholars have hardly paid any attention at all to the primary sources and instead are merely arguing with recent discussions on ancient or early modern texts.  G. is of a better spirit.

Persons engaged in study of the 16th century means and methods of higher education will need to get hold of this volume and carefully read it.  Students of the Reformation need to do the same.  And finally, persons who have an interest in the dissemination of knowledge in the early modern period cannot do better than to start here in their in depth research on the topic.  This volume is thoroughly recommend-able.

Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?

9780190264260Anyone who reads the Gospels carefully will notice that there are differences in the manner in which they report the same events. These differences have led many conservative Christians to resort to harmonization efforts that are often quite strained, sometimes to the point of absurdity. Many people have concluded the Gospels are hopelessly contradictory and therefore historically unreliable as accounts of Jesus. The majority of New Testament scholars now hold that most if not all of the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography and that this genre permitted some flexibility in the way in which historical events were narrated. However, few scholars have undertaken a robust discussion of how this plays out in Gospel pericopes (self-contained passages).

Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? provides a fresh approach to the question by examining the works of Plutarch, a Greek essayist who lived in the first and second centuries CE. Michael R. Licona discovers three-dozen pericopes narrated two or more times in Plutarch’s Lives, identifies differences between the accounts, and analyzes these differences in light of compositional devices identified by classical scholars as commonly employed by ancient authors. The book then applies the same approach to nineteen pericopes that are narrated in two or more Gospels, demonstrating that the major differences found there likely result from the same compositional devices employed by Plutarch.

Showing both the strained harmonizations and the hasty dismissals of the Gospels as reliable accounts to be misguided, Licona invites readers to approach them in light of their biographical genre and in that way to gain a clearer understanding of why they differ.

Oxford have sent a review copy which I’ll get to in the next few weeks.  More anon.

Christianity, Book-Burning and Censorship in Late Antiquity

9783110486070De Gruyter have sent along this for review.  It is comprised of seven substantive chapters:

  1. The Great Persecution, the Emperor Julian and Christian Reactions
  2. Fahrenheit AD 451 – Imperial Legislation and Public Authority
  3. Holy Men, Clerics and Ascetics
  4. Materialist Philosophy
  5. Moral Disapproval of Literary Genres
  6. Destruction of Libraries
  7. The Post-Roman Successor States

Everything is drawn together in the conclusion and readers are offered an introduction and the usual indices and bibliographies to round out the volume.

This is a fascinating study.  Rohmann has provided students of Christianity one of the most engaging studies I have yet read.  The topic is fascinating and the development of the subject is meticulous and wise.

But the most astonishing feature of the volume is the explanation of the historical events which gave rise to book burning among Christians.  It’s a fascinating practice and here we learn why it was done and to what end.  For example, did you know

….  that book-burning and censorship in ancient societies were in many ways different from a modern notion of these acts where they are often associated with a totalitarian state.

And

… in the early imperial period … book-burning served the purpose of conflict-management.

And

… it is worth noting that Christian authors describe philosophy as an ill body that is dying naturally. I suggest that the body-metaphor includes a polemical attack against materialist philosophies because these supported the preference of the body to the soul.

And

Monks, ascetics and holy men could burn books as part of a spectacle in order to destroy the demons by which they felt persecuted.

This book is literally packed with important historical details which fill in the gaps about an early Christian practice which raises eyebrows among those who may not know the whence and why of book burning.  It ought to be read by those with an interest in the intellectual history of the early Church and by those with a fondness for the peculiarities of some Christian practices.

By no means, though, should this volume be ‘burned’ on the woodpile of disinterest.  Tolle, lege!

Two New Volumes From Ellert & Richter Verlag on Luther

Matthias Gretzschel
Martin Luther
His Life and Places of Work

978-3-8319-0642-0The effects of the life and work of the Wittenberg Reformer Martin Luther were universal, but he spent most of his time in the electoral principality of Saxony, which as a result of his life and work became the “mother country of the Reformation”. The theologian and journalist Matthias Gretzschel approaches the Luther phenomenon by tracing Luther’s fortunes along the stations of his life: from Eisleben in the county of Mansfeld where he was born via his schooldays in Eisenach to his entry into the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt as a monk, from Wittenberg where he nailed his theses to the church door to the Leipzig Debate, from his appearances before the Diet of Worms to his “protective custody” in Wartburg Castle where he translated the New Testament into German. The later journeys that he made from Wittenberg to promote the Reformation are also documented. In the second part of the book Luther sites in Germany are presented in alphabetical order with detailed information and up-to-date photos of each town or city. The focus is on authentic places where Martin Luther lived and worked, many of which have already been refurbished for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. They are the churches in which he preached, houses where he lived or stayed, and Luther monuments and exhibitions. The other main sites of the cities and towns in question are also presented. With more than 250 illustrations, a chronology and an index.

And

Martin Treu
Am Anfang war das Wort
Martin Luther und die Reformation in Europa

978-3-8319-0639-01517 veröffentlichte ein Wittenberger Professor 95 Thesen gegen den Missbrauch des Ablasses. Daraus entstand eine Bewegung, die weder Martin Luther noch irgendein anderer voraussehen konnte: die Reformation. Eine umstürzende Veränderung weit über die Grenzen der Kirche hinaus. In Sachsen zuerst, dann in weiten Teilen Deutschlands und schließlich in ganz Europa veränderten sich Kirche und Kultur, Staat und Gesellschaft. Wie und wo das geschah, erzählt der Autor auf knappem Raum in leicht verständlicher Sprache. Die Verhältnisse in Wittenberg werden ebenso geschil- dert, wie die Entwicklungen im Deutschen Reich. Gleichzeitig werden die Reformationen in der Schweiz und den Niederlanden als Ausgangspunkt der zweiten großen Strömung neben Luther gewürdigt. Schließlich finden sich auch die Veränderungen in der katholischen Kirche, die zu ihrer neuzeitlichen Gestalt führen.

Both of these books present interesting details about Luther which readers may not have found in other sources.  So, for instance, the first volume by Gretzschel, in English, gives readers nothing less than a fully illustrated guided tour of Luther’s life and locales.  Scarcely does a page pass which isn’t gorgeously illustrated in full color prints and reproductions.

Accordingly, when one comes to the point in the discussion where Luther is summoned to appear at the Diet of Worms the reader is provided a portrait of Charles V, a copy of the summons to Luther, a portrayal of the city, a number of pictures of Luther statues from the famous ‘here I stand’ episode, and a copy of the edict denouncing Luther, along with precise descriptions of the events portrayed.

But that’s just the first part of the book.  The second part is an alphabetical listing of every place which played a part in Luther’s life from Altenburg to Zwickau and each place is lushly illustrated as was the case in the first part of the book.

The third part of the volume offers a chronology of Luther’s life and this is followed by an index and a listing of photo credits.

The second book, this time in German, also provides a biography of Luther and is also richly illustrated.  But unlike the former volume, which ends at Luther’s death, the volume in hand takes the further step of describing the influence of Luther not only in Germany but across Europe as well as his Reformation reached as far as England, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Austria, and numerous other lands.  It also discusses the events of the Augsburg Interim and the Council of Trent.  For this reason the work by Treu can be viewed as a very helpful continuation of the work of Gretzschel.

2017 will continue to see dozens of volumes about Luther and about his Reformation spring from the presses of Germany and North America (and other lands as well).  For persons interested in dipping their feet in the Luther-an waters, these two books are the perfect ‘wading pool’.  They are not so technical that beginning ‘swimmers’ will drown but they are not so shallow and insubstantive that readers will feel unchallenged or uninformed once they have waded through them.

These books are, in a word, ideal introductions to Luther’s life.  Not least because they are so wonderfully illustrated, but more importantly because they are both so well written.

Luther! Biographie Eines Befreiten

160307_EVA_Biographie_Luther_Cover_rz.inddMit entschiedener Sympathie und beeindruckendem psychologischen Gespür lässt Joachim Köhler, Autor zahlreicher biographischer und kulturgeschichtlicher Werke, den großen Glaubenskämpfer der deutschen Geschichte lebendig werden. »Christsein heißt, von Tag zu Tag mehr hineingerissen werden in Christus.« Dieses leidenschaftliche Bekenntnis des Reformators steht im Mittelpunkt von Köhlers brillanter Biographie, die Luthers dramatische Entwicklung in drei Stadien – Bedrängnis, Befreiung und Bewahrung – darstellt. Sie zeichnet sowohl Luthers existenzielle Glaubenserfahrungen nach als auch die Anfechtungen psychologischer und politischer Art, mit denen er lebenslang zu ringen hatte.

Köhler schreibt uns den großen Luther ins Herz, ohne den manchmal kleinlichen und irrenden zu beschönigen. Er lässt symbolträchtige, aber in ihrer Faktizität teils umstrittene Momente wie Turmerlebnis oder Thesenanschlag in ihrer Authentizität einsichtig werden. Vor allem aber zeigt er: Luther ist nicht von gestern. Er hat vor 500 Jahren Fragen aufgeworfen und beantwortet, die wir uns heute wieder stellen müssen. Lesen Sie Luther mit Köhler!

You can read a fairly large sample here.

The publisher, Evangelische Verlagsanstalt Leipzig, is also the publisher of the very impressive Europa Reformata (a sample of which I saw at SBL in San Antonio).  Take a look for yourself at these pages.  They’ve provided a review copy of this new Luther bio and it is purely delightful.

Comprised of three major divisions, this biography is a bit different than most, as it only traces Luther’s life from his earliest days through his spiritual awakening to the denouement of the Marburg Colloquy and the composition, in its wake, of Luther’s most famous hymn, ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’.  The three divisions are comprised of 12 chapters and each chapter is festooned with subsections, each discussing a particular aspect of Luther’s life and thought.

K. is absolutely right to focus on the early, formative years of Luther and the Reformation that he inspired and he is absolutely right to end his treatment at Marburg, where Luther’s views on the Supper, and everything else, hardened – never to change again.  Post-Marburg, Luther will simply expand on his earlier views without adjusting them or changing them in any substantial way.

The genius of this biography is its comprehension of Luther’s intellectual development and its explanation of that development.  For example, of the era in which Luther developed intellectually, K. observes

Es war die Geburtsstunde des »Universalen Menschen«. … Auch die Galionsfigur der Humanisten, der
Holländer Gerhard Gerhards, schmückte sich mit dem lateinischen Pseudonym »Erasmus Roterodamus«. Als Mann aus Rotterdam verkörperte er wie kein anderer das neue Menschheitsideal. …  Der neue Menschentyp war nicht zur
Unterwerfung unter Dogmen und Gebote geschaffen, sondern entschied sich aus freien Stücken, das Gute zu tun. Das war die schöne, neue Welt des Erasmus Roterodamus, und Martinus Viropolitanus nahm sie in vollen Zügen in sich auf.

And then, on Luther’s first encounter with the Bible, K. remarks

Auf der Suche nach Ablenkung oder Trost stieß er in der Universitätsbibliothek auf eine Bibel. Das war Neuland für ihn. Denn trotz seiner zwanzig Jahre, so bekannte er, hatte ich noch keine gesehen.60 Die Beschäftigung mit den heiligen Texten galt nämlich als Privileg der Geistlichkeit. Noch als Mönch wurde ihm von der Lektüre abgeraten. »Ei, Bruder Martinus«, warnte ein Theologieprofessor, »man soll die alten Lehrer lesen, die haben den Saft der Wahrheit aus der Bibel gesogen«.

In a day when most of us have numerous Bible’s scattered around our homes, the fact that Luther never saw one until he was 20 is astonishing.

K’.s volume isn’t just interesting because of the facts and details it contains, it is interesting and engaging because K. can write really, really well.  One example of this can suffice, K. relating Luther’s time as a monk:

Nicht christliche Liebe herrschte, sondern das altvertraute Leistungsprinzip. Jeder Mönch bewegte sich wie der Hamster im Rad. Martin wollte der schnellste Hamster sein.

This is, I can say without hesitation, the best biography of Luther which focuses on Luther’s intellectual development that I’ve read.  I sincerely hope that it will soon be translated into English so that a wider audience can benefit from the impressive learning and insight which it contains.  Indeed, I can only implore the publishing houses out there to make the translation of this volume their priority project for 2017.  English speaking Church History and Reformation History ‘fans’ will be eternally grateful.

If, in the meanwhile, you have a relatively basic understanding of German, get a copy and read it.  You will be glad you did.

Am Anfang war das Wort: Martin Luther und die Reformation in Europa

Martin Treu
Am Anfang war das Wort
Martin Luther und die Reformation in Europa

978-3-8319-0639-01517 veröffentlichte ein Wittenberger Professor 95 Thesen gegen den Missbrauch des Ablasses. Daraus entstand eine Bewegung, die weder Martin Luther noch irgendein anderer voraussehen konnte: die Reformation. Eine umstürzende Veränderung weit über die Grenzen der Kirche hinaus. In Sachsen zuerst, dann in weiten Teilen Deutschlands und schließlich in ganz Europa veränderten sich Kirche und Kultur, Staat und Gesellschaft. Wie und wo das geschah, erzählt der Autor auf knappem Raum in leicht verständlicher Sprache. Die Verhältnisse in Wittenberg werden ebenso geschil- dert, wie die Entwicklungen im Deutschen Reich. Gleichzeitig werden die Reformationen in der Schweiz und den Niederlanden als Ausgangspunkt der zweiten großen Strömung neben Luther gewürdigt. Schließlich finden sich auch die Veränderungen in der katholischen Kirche, die zu ihrer neuzeitlichen Gestalt führen.

I’ve made my way through this lushly illustrated volume and will post my review on Monday.  For now, let me just say that the volume is a very engaging contribution amidst the flood of Luther volumes presently appearing; not least for the many and very fine illustrations which it contains.  For example, here’s a photo included in the book which shows Luther’s translation of a section of 1 Kings, in his own hand.  If you look carefully, you can see the numerous mark throughs and corrections.

luther_at_1kings22

More after Christmas.

Arrived for Review

The reviews won’t post here because I’ve agreed to write them for Reviews in Religion and Theology (Cambridge).  So watch for them there next year.  Both books look pretty engaging.  Especially the Luther fun.

Lived Religion and the Long Reformation in Northern Europe c. 1300–1700

New at Brill- for you Church History peeps-

18265Lived Religion and the Long Reformation in Northern Europe puts Reformation in a daily life context using lived religion as a conceptual and methodological tool: exploring how people “lived out” their religion in their mundane toils and how religion created a performative space for them. This collection reinvestigates the character of the Reformation in an area that later became the heartlands of Lutheranism. The way people lived their religion was intricately linked with questions of the value of individual experience, communal cohesion and interaction. During the late Middle Ages and Early Modern Era religious certainty was replaced by the experience of doubt and hesitation. Negotiations on and between various social levels manifest the needs, aspirations and resistance behind the religious change.

Contributors include: Kaarlo Arffman, Jussi Hanska, Miia Ijäs, Sari Katajala-Peltomaa, Jenni Kuuliala, Marko Lamberg, Jason Lavery, Maija Ojala, Päivi Räisänen-Schröder, Raisa Maria Toivo.

The good folk at Brill have provided a review copy and that review will post by the week’s end.  The most engaging of the essays, to the present reviewer, was Appeal and Survival of Anabaptism in Early Modern Germany by Päivi Räisänen-Schröder.  This essay is the fourth chapter of ten and appears in the section titled Lived Religion in Daily Life.  The entire table of contents is available at the link above and will not be repeated here.

As to the essay of greatest interest, which will occupy us in what follows, it is an excellent example of the importance of perspective in historical research.  That is, researchers are obliged to examine historical periods from the point of view of someone other than the ‘victors’ who invariably ‘write history’.  In Räisänen-Schröder’s work we are treated to a really rather unique examination of the Anabaptist movement.  For example

To quote Benjamin Kaplan, it was quite possible to be “a friend to the person, yet an enemy to the cause”, as “one did not identify the individuals whom one knew personally – neighbors, relatives, fellow citizens, friends – with the remorseless, faceless ideologues who (one imagined) marched under the banner of those confessions” (p. 105).

Thus, we are disabused of the notion that the Anabaptists were universally despised.  Räisänen-Schröder also attends to primary sources, which are cited rather a lot throughout the essay, in order to allow us to see things from the Anabaptist side at first hand.  Of these Anabaptist texts, Räisänen-Schröder notes

Rather than treating them as expressions of their writer’s inner thoughts, I have read them as strategic narratives intended to present the writer in a certain light (p. 106).

So, for instance

Melchior Greiner, for his part, had criticized the lax moral standards of the Lutherans almost twenty-five years earlier, in 1574. He complained that attending the Lutheran Eucharist would force him to receive the sacrament together with “the unworthy”, “among whom he can see no repentance”.  He considered this a severe risk for his salvation (p. 111).

Who were these believers and why did they break from the dominant Churches?  Was it for theological reasons (as is often asserted) or because of something else.  Räisänen-Schröder shows us the apparent reason, when wryly writing

Especially among the rank-and-file members, being an Anabaptist was more a question of good practice than of correct doctrine (p. 115).

Theology took a back seat to morality in the minds of early Anabaptists in Germany.  This, naturally, calls into question the common consensus of research.  Furthermore, they were not viewed as theological heretics by their non-Anabaptist neighbors.

If Anabaptists were truly and generally believed to be heretics, denunciation would surely have resulted – any other course of action would have been too much of a “salvific risk”. Otherwise, we might have to reassess the fear of God’s wrath as a social and cultural force in Early Modern village society. This is a question that in my view has not been studied in sufficient depth and that, given the nature of the sources, is very difficult to answer (pp. 123-124).

Räisänen-Schröder concludes

Early Modern laypeople were less interested in theological doctrines and confessional distinctions than maintaining a set of beliefs, practices and values that helped them give meanings to and cope with the joys and hardships of life emotionally, intellectually and practically (p. 126).

Imagine, for a moment, that Lutheran Pastors and Church members had actually lived their faith and behaved ethically and morally… The Anabaptist movement may never have lasted past the disaster of Münster because its ethical impulses would have been found in Lutheranism.

The value of this essay, and many others in this helpful collection, is that it helps us to question the correctness of our preconceptions.  As such, it is extraordinarily educational and highly informative.  It does, in sum, what a good text is supposed to do: it makes us think about what we think.

Tolle, lege!

Two Volumes Reviewed, But You’ll Have to Look Elsewhere For Those Reviews

I’ve worked on a couple of reviews for Reviews in Religion and Theology (to appear in some future number).  Specifically, this book

IMG_9205

And this one

imagehop

I can’t repeat what the reviews include except to say, Brown’s book is very, very good and Viazovski’s is a quite interesting technical read.  More philosophically oriented than my tastes appreciate but still quite engaging.  See RRT in due course for the full explanations.