Category Archives: Book Review

The Council of Trent: Reform and Controversy in Europe and Beyond (1545-1700)

Exactly 450 years after the solemn closure of the Council of Trent on 4 December 1563, scholars from diverse regional, disciplinary and confessional backgrounds convened in Leuven to reflect upon the impact of this Council, not only in Europe but also beyond. Their conclusions are to be found in these three impressive volumes. Bridging different generations of scholarship, the authors reassess in a first volume Tridentine views on the Bible, theology and liturgy, as well as their reception by Protestants, deconstructing many myths surviving in scholarship and society alike. They also deal with the mechanisms ‘Rome’ developed to hold a grip on the Council’s implementation. The second volume analyzes the changes in local ecclesiastical life, initiated by bishops, orders and congregations, and the political strife and confessionalisation accompanying this reform process. The third and final volume examines the afterlife of Trent in arts and music, as well as in the global impact of Trent through missions.

All the details of the volume can be found here.   Just click the Leseprobe tab.  There you will find the table of contents, etc., so that those materials won’t be repeated here.

Readers of book reviews generally want to know what the book under consideration contain (and thanks to the internet, that information is now generally available on the publisher’s website) and, more importantly, if it’s worth buying or recommending to their library or even checking out from their lending source.

Further, potential readers of the book want to know if there are problems with it.  If it fails to meet the reader’s needs or doesn’t deliver the advertised scholarship then the review it receives should reflect those facts.  If, however, it meets expectations or surpasses them, it receives a more positive review.

This book meets expectations.  And it is the first of a planned three in the series.  Volume two will take in hand the Bishops and Princes along with Church and Politics.  And volume three will turn our attention to Art and Music followed by Global Catholicism.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself a bit and wish to return to consideration of the present volume.  It’s highlight, for me, is the chapter titled Trent and the Latin Vulgate: A Louvain Project?  This really amazing piece traces the incredible significance of the Louvain-ers in the production and promulgation of the biblical text that would be chosen as THE Catholic Bible.   Seldom does one encounter such carefully reconstructed historical detail.  Text critics and students of the history of the Vulgate will benefit immensely from reading this essay.

Equally enjoyable is G. Frank’s essay on Melanchthon and Trent.  Perhaps because I enjoy Melanchthon so much or perhaps because Frank is such a clear writer.

Not, strictly speaking, a theological essay but rather a historical one is Sachet’s “Privilege of Rome: The Catholic Church’s Attempt to Control the Printed Legacy of the Council of Trent”.  The attempts of Rome to control the narrative about Trent by controlling what was published of and from it is extremely intriguing.  The Church of Rome has always manifested a fairly high level of control.  This essay shows how that mentality worked itself out in the wake of Trent.

Enjoyable too is the essay by John O’Malley on Trent and Vatican II.  Here he shows that in spite of the major differences between the two Councils, they share some amazing similarities.  ‘They nicely illustrate the paradox of history’, opines O’Malley in the closing paragraphs.  I will let readers discover for themselves the surprise in store.

I think this is a very fine collection of essays and if volumes two and three are as excellent, then this series will become standard fare for historians of the Catholic Church.  I am happy to recommend it to your personal library and to your research library.  It fills an important gap in that it goes into greater detail on the issues of the Council of Trent than more general treatments and histories do.

Where the general textbooks scratch the surface, this volume bores into the bone.

Evangelische Kirche und Konzentrationslager (1933 bis 1945)

Um das Verhältnis der evangelischen Kirche zum KZ-System zwischen 1933 und 1945 darzustellen, untersucht Rebecca Scherf wesentliche Aspekte, die dieses Verhältnis charakterisieren: die Seelsorgetätigkeit der evangelischen Kirche, die inhaftierten Geistlichen, ihre Hafterfahrungen sowie die Reaktionen auf ihre Verhaftungen. Zur Analyse der Seelsorgetätigkeit wurden Quellen aus den frühen Jahren der NS-Diktatur herangezogen, die das Herausdrängen kirchlicher Einflussmöglichkeiten innerhalb des KZ-Systems durch den Staat bezeugen, das 1937 in einem für die damalige evangelische Kirche unverständlichen Seelsorgeverbot gipfelte.

Bereits im März 1933 wurde der erste evangelische Pfarrer in KZ-Haft genommen, bis März 1945 waren es insgesamt 71. In einem Überblick dokumentiert Scherf erstmals alle in den KZs inhaftierten Pfarrer, Vikare und Pfarrverwalter nach landeskirchlicher Zugehörigkeit, Verhaftungszeitpunkt und Inhaftierungsgrund. Zeitlich liegt ein Schwerpunkt auf den Jahren 1935 und 1941/42 mit den meisten Inhaftierungen. Die Inhaftierungsgründe sowie die Reaktionen von institutioneller und gemeindlicher Seite in jenen Jahren spiegeln dabei das sich wandelnde Verhältnis von Staat und evangelischer Kirche wieder. Die lokale Priorität liegt auf den Lagern Sachsenburg und Dachau, in die die meisten Geistlichen verschleppt wurden.

Hierbei konnte die Autorin auf der Grundlage von Tagebucheinträgen und Predigten erstmals das protestantische Leben der Geistlichen im Dachauer Pfarrerblock rekonstruieren. Wenige der 71 Geistlichen hielten ihre erlebte KZ-Haft nach ihrer Entlassung schriftlich in einem autobiographischen Bericht fest. Acht dieser Aufzeichnungen untersuchte Scherf, um persönlichen Erfahrungen und theologischen Deutungshorizonten der erlebten KZ-Haft nachzugehen. Den Abschluss bildet der Blick auf die Auswirkungen der KZ-Haft für das Selbstbild und die Fremdwahrnehmung der Bekennenden Kirche nach 1945.

Die Arbeit wurde mit dem Wilhelm Freiherr von Pechmann-Preis 2018 ausgezeichnet.

A review copy has arrived.

Zwingli’s Private Library

This arrived from Brill for review a while back:

The Swiss theologian Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531) was one of the most prominent reformers and the founder of the Reformed Protestant Church in the Swiss Confederation. During the last hundred years more than 200 titles from his private library have been discovered. They give an interesting insight into his interests and sources. The present book contains not only an extensive introduction and a catalogue of these books and manuscripts, but also an inventory of the lost works possessed by Zwingli. They open the door to Zwingli’s study and to the intellectual world of an important reformer.

The book is comprised of three parts.  In part one, Leu and Weidmann put Zwingli in the context of books and libraries in general and in the context of his own library in particular.  As they state it

… investigating someone’s private library is just as crucial in tracing his spiritual life and intellectual conflicts, as is the scrutiny of other personal documents.

They go on to say a bit further on

Zwingli loved the secluded life of study. It is no coincidence that he underlined the quotation by Horace: “Beatus ille, qui procul negotiis” (Happy the man who is far away from the business) in his copy of the Orationes praelectiones et praefationes by Philipp Beroaldus.

So the aim here is clearly stated: which books did Zwingli own and what did he think of them?  To that end, then, we are informed that

… a maximum of a few thousand titles would have been available to scholars during Zwingli’s lifetime.  It can thus be inferred that they had to purchase many of the books they wanted themselves, due to the difficulty, at times sheer impossibility, of accessing the material otherwise.

And books were expensive!

One of his most expensive books was probably his edition of the works of Augustine (no. 13). The edition printed later in 1529 by Johannes Froben (about 1460–1527) had cost 18 guilders.

I had to do a little research, but I discovered this bit of information about the value of the guilder:

An outdoor laborer earned 6.50 guilders per week or just over 300 guilders per year.
master carpenter earned 9 guilders per week or just over 450 guilders per year
Wages did not change for 150 years.

A pastor earned 500 guilders per year. Rent free. We have an antique Dutch book and it describes the detailed living expenses of a pastor and his wife on a 500 guilders a year salary. They could not make ends meet.

Today, economists find it difficult to express a meaningful correlation factor of cost of living between two very different cities e.g. Miami, Oklahoma and Miami, Florida, let alone find a factor for correlating cost of living between two countries over some 400 years. However, research on inflation and CPI over the period of 1600 to 2000, -as well as rate of exchange and purchasing power- gives us a workable factor of 60. That means that for the rest of this report we’ll use: 100 guilders in the 1600s equals US $6,000 in today’s money.   (Cf-

That’s approximately the valuation of the guilder used in Switzerland during Zwingli’s lifetime.  I.e., 1 guilder = $60.  That means that Zwingli’s copy of Augustine’s works cost him $1080.

Zwingli paid off this work in at least two installments because on 8th March 1521 he wrote to Beatus Rhenanus that he had sent four guilders to the bookseller Mathias Biermann to settle the debts for his Augustine.

Leu continues:

If we calculate Zwingli’s income, it becomes evident that the Reformer spent a comparatively large amount of his money on his library which numbered several hundred titles. He was prepared to spend substantial sums on books and on education. We do not know how much he earned in Glarus, his financial situation in Einsiedeln is better documented. As well as a papal pension of 50 guilders per year for his military services in northern Italy, he also had a sinecure from Glarus and received an annual salary of twenty guilders from the monastery in Einsiedeln. There, he was also entitled to part of the so-called Beichtschilling (confessional shilling), to the fees for reading Masses (Oblations) and to a quarter of the donations at a funeral (mortuaries). Furthermore, he held the parish of Glarus de jure and had a locum vicar, thus securing for him self an additional income. Zwingli certainly earned over 100 guilders annually in Einsiedeln, which was not the case during his early days in Zürich.

These fascinating details fill this volume’s first chapter and no fuller picture of Zwingli’s book acquisitions has ever been composed.

When our authors get to the second part of their work they examine in brilliant detail the works in Zwingli’s library (of three chief sorts, Theological, Historical, and Miscellaneous).  They provide many examples of marginal notations along with many historical details about the works Zwingli used.  For instance, and remarkably

Astonishingly enough, not one single German Bible has survived from Zwingli’s Bible collection, although he certainly knew the so-called Wormser Propheten (no. A 17) as well as Luther’s New Testament (no. A 18). He used both of these works in preparing his translation for the Zürich Bible. Unlike the private collection of Zwingli’s successor, Heinrich Bullinger, no copy of the Zürich Bible has come down to us from Zwingli’s library, although he himself contributed greatly to its translation. We do however have a complete Greek Bible which, in a way, can be seen as Zwingli’s family Bible (no. 26). He would not have read aloud from it in the family circle, but he recorded the births of his children on the back inside cover. This list of births was continued by his son, recording his children with Anna Bullinger proving that the Bible remained in the Zwingli family after his death and was not transferred to the abbey library of the Grossmünster.

They also provide numerous illustrative plates throughout the volume.

Zwingli’s library was comprised of just over 400 volumes.  197 of them are held in the Zurich Central Library and they are available online, as we are here informed:

Finally it should be noted that all titles held by the ZBZ are available in digitized form at the following internet address:

There is a wealth of material in those volumes in the form of Zwingli’s marginal notations.

The third part of the volume is the catalogue itself.  And, unsurprisingly, it is simply a listing of those volumes held by Zwingli in his personal library.

The volume concludes with a bibliography.  It also concludes with a series of indices of printer’s locations, a list of contributors to Zwingli’s library, and finally, dedicators.

This is an exceptionally interesting book.  The historical details it shares and the massive amount of material it so carefully sifts is astonishing.  Readers of this volume will learn more about Zwingli and his world than from most other volumes on the great Reformer.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  And so I recommend it to you, to your library, and to your research institution.

Glaube in Karl Barths ‘Kirchlicher Dogmatik’: Die anthropologische Gestalt des Glaubens zwischen Exzentrizität und Deutung

The study systematically analyzes Karl Barth’s understanding of human faith in Church Dogmatics. Barth’s anthropology founded on Christology is presented with special attention to the doctrines of creation and justification. Applying Barthian dialectics, Schüz shows how the “eccentric” nature of faith “extra nos,” and its free and historical adoption, is transmitted through interpretations.

Wahrheit – Glaube – Geltung: Theologische und philosophische Konkretionen

In einer Zeit, in der sich unterschiedliche und zuweilen widersprechende Wahrheiten nahezu täglich neu Geltung verschaffen, müssen die Wahrheits- und Geltungsansprüche des christlichen Glaubens überprüft und in einer steten Interpretation der biblischen Texte vergegenwärtigt werden. Sich in den vielfältigen Deutungen der Großbegriffe zu orientieren und theologische und philosophische Konkretionen zu formulieren, hat sich die 20. Jahrestagung der Rudolf-Bultmann-Gesellschaft für Hermeneutische Theologie zur Aufgabe gemacht. Der Sammelband dokumentiert deren Erträge.

20 Jahre waren auch Anlass für eine Rückschau. Neben zwei Beiträgen der beiden Vorsitzenden findet sich deshalb auch eine Übersicht zu den Vorstandsmitgliedern sowie zu den Themen und Vorträgen der Jahrestagungen. 

Mit Beiträgen von Volker Gerhardt, Corinna Körting, Michael Labahn, Malte Dominik Krüger, Isolde Karle, Ulrich H. J. Körtner und Christof Landmesser.

A New Divinity

Mark Jones, Michael A. G. Haykin
A New Divinity
Reformed Historical Theology 49
ISBN 13: 978-3-525-55285-8

This is a study on Reformed theological debates during the »Long Eighteenth Century« in Britain and New England. By »Long« a period that goes beyond 1700–1799 is in view. This examination begins just before the eighteenth century by looking at the Neonomian-Antinomian debate in the 1690s. This is followed by the Marrow Controversy in Scotland in the eighteenth century. After that, the authors address the ecclesiological debates between George Whitefield and the Erskines. The doctrine of free choice concerning Edwards and his departure from classical Reformed orthodoxy is highlighted next, followed by reflections on the Edwardseans and the atonement. Returning to Britain again, the volume provides a study on hyper-Calvinism, and on eschatological differences among key figures in the eighteenth century. More specific debates in particular Baptist circles are noted, including the battle over Sandemandianism and the Trinitarian battles fought by Andrew Fuller and others. Returning to ecclesiology, a discussion on the subscription controversy in Philadelphia in the early eighteenth century and an analysis of the debate about the nature of »revival« in New England close this volume.

I appreciate V&R sending along a review copy (supplied by their North American distributor, ISD).

Readers are encouraged to click on the link above and then scroll down to the ‘Leseprobe’ tab to see the table of contents and other front matter.  Those materials aren’t repeated here since they are easily available there.

The twelve essays here collected offer readers very carefully presented materials on a number of very intriguing aspects of the history of the Church in its Reformed manifestation in 17th and 18th century England and America.  In particular, VanDoodewaard’s work on the Marrow Controversy, Helm’s on Hyper-Calvinism, Herzer on Eschatology, Finn on Sandemanianism, and Smart on the Great Awakening are wonderfully crafted academic essays.  Smart, concise, and informative are the three terms that come to mind whilst reading these contributions.

The editor’s introduction (which can be read at the link above) nicely outlines the essays here included and shows their relatedness.  The volume also includes a list of contributors and an index of persons.

The chief aim is nicely encapsulated in the last paragraph-

Would I recommend this collection?  Certainly.  Go read this book then.  And you’ll love it.

Ulrich Zwingli: Prophet, Ketzer, Pionier des Protestantismus

9783290178284Peter Opitz’s new book was sent along by TVZ some time back.  First of all, concerning the author, it isn’t necessary to say this but I will nonetheless just in case some readers are unfamiliar with the work of Opitz: there are very few scholars in the field of Reformation History who have his grasp of primary sources and secondary materials related to Calvin, Zwingli, and Bullinger.  Put more plainly, he knows the subject of this volume.

Second, concerning the volume, Opitz guides readers through four major aspects of Zwingli’s life and thought: his beginning as a Reformer;  Zwingli and the Reformation of Zurich; Zwingli and the Reformation of the Confederation; and Zwingli as a Protestant Pioneer.

Following the chronology of Zwingli’s life, Opitz, in around 120 pages, instructs readers as to the contributions of Zwingli to the Church and to the Reformation of Switzerland and further afield.  Opitz provides ample citations from Zwingli himself, thereby bolstering his argument and the publisher illustrates the volume with really lovely contemporary (and nearly contemporary) artwork.  For instance, here are a few of the illustrations that are included in the volume:


The most valuable, and necessary, part of the volume is Opitz’s treatment of the question of Zwingli and the re-baptizers. Here Opitz undermines the various myths and legends associated with Zwingli’s attitude towards and treatment of the members of this movement. I describe it as the most valuable and necessary because this is one of the areas where there’s so much misinformation constantly repeated that a correction is indispensable.

The fact that Opitz rightly grasps Zwingli’s significance is made most apparent when he writes

Es gibt keinen theologischen Gedanken Calvins, der nicht zuvor schon in der Zwinglischen Reformation diskutiert worden wäre. Sowohl historisch als theologisch ist Zwingli, nicht Calvin, der Urvater des reformierten Protestantismus (p. 110).

And again

Präsent ist Zwinglis Denken nicht nur im Presbyterianismus und in der Mennonitischen Theologie, sondern auch im Anklikanismus und im Methodismus (p. 111).

Zwingli is the unrecognized and unacknowledged and thus unappreciated fount of the theology of many Christian strands of thought to the very present. Opitz reminds us of that fact if we have forgotten it and teaches it to us if we have never learned it.

In terms of style, Opitz is a very fine communicator who writes with fluidity and congruency. Thought flows to thought with hardly any disruptions or intrusions of non-essential rabbit chasings.

Finally, the volume has one further very positive aspect: it debunks the nonsense spewed by Karl Barth about Zwingli in his lectures on the great man. Persons familiar with those lectures will find here in Opitz’s little book the perfect antidote to Barthian misprision. Barth may have found Zwingli an insurmountable Himalaya, but Opitz knows better and spaces Zwingli in the proper context of his time and place.

This is a magnificent book. I enjoyed it from the first page through the brief bibliography at its conclusion. I can only recommend it but were it possible, I would command it to be read. Especially by the Barthians and the misinformed Lutherans who, rather than bothering with Zwingli himself, instead bow the knee to the Baal of Barth and Luther and parrot their partisan viewpoints.

When it comes to Zwingli, Opitz is better informed than Barth and Luther, combined.

Tolle, lege.

Makers of the Modern Theological Mind: Emil Brunner

9781619707368oWhen I was but a lowly undergrad at Carson-Newman College (now University) I took a class on Systematic theology taught by Paul Brewer.  Our textbook was Hanson and Hanson’s Theology but among the supplemental texts we could choose from was Emil Brunner’s ‘Man in Revolt’ and ‘Divine Imperative’.  I was hooked.  Since then (back in the early 80’s) I’ve gotten hold of everything I could written by Brunner and not once been disappointed or annoyed by either his form or content.  He was, in my view, the greatest 20th century theologian of them all.  He was a clearer thinker than Barth and a better Churchman too.

The finest introduction to Brunner’s thought was written less than a decade after his death, in 1972, by Bob Patterson, for the series then published by Fortress called ‘Makers of the Modern Theological Mind’.  It was, and remains, the best volume on Brunner’s thinking yet written.  It was a tragedy that Fortress allowed the series to lapse out of print and it is a spectacular joy that Hendrickson are bringing it back and starting with the volume on Brunner itself, with Bultmann following next (which really is the best procedure).

If you’ve never read Patterson’s work, do so.  In the volume at hand he carefully charts the major outlines of Brunner’s theology, beginning with the need for theological prolegomenon and proceeding through treatments of his doctrines of revelation, God, man, Christ, the church, faith, and eternal hope.  Readers familiar with Brunner’s justifiably famous 3 volume Church Dogmatics will recognize immediately the outline of that work reflected in Patterson’s analysis.  But Patterson doesn’t simply cite those books; he draws, at first hand, from all Brunner’s oeuvre.

There is no finer overview of Brunner’s thought in English.  Nothing even comes close.  Thank you, Hendrickson, for bringing it back for a new generation of theologians and theological students.

Multiple Reformations? The Many Faces and Legacies of the Reformation

The Many Faces of the Reformation
Euan Cameron: Reconsidering Early-Reformation and Catholic-Reform Impulses – Randall C. Zachman: The Birth of Protestantism? Or the Reemergence of the Catholic Church? How Its Participants Understood the Evangelical Reformation

Interpretations of Scripture in the Reformation Period
Manfred Oeming: The Importance of the Old Testament for the Reformer Martin Luther – Greta Grace Kroeker: Erasmus and Scripture – Paul Silas Peterson: »The Text of the Bible is Stronger«: The Rebirth of Scriptural Authority in the Reformation and it Significance

The Reformation as an Interpretative Event
Emidio Campi: The Myth of the Reformation – Scott Dixon: The German Reformation as a Historiographical Construct: The Shaping of the Narrative from Melanchthon to Walch – Ute Lotz-Heumann: Confessionalization is Dead, Long Live the Reformation? Reflections on Historiographical Paradigm Shifts on the Occasion of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation

The Aftermath of the Reformation Period
John O’Malley: Catholic Pastoral Care: The Early Modern Period – Jan Stievermann: Early American Protestantism and the Confessionalization Paradigm: A Critical Inquiry

Confessional Empires, Missions, and Nations
Simon Ditchfield: The »Making« of Roman Catholicism as a »World Religion« – Patrick Griffin: The Last War of Religion or the First War for Empire? Reconsidering the Meaning of The Seven Years’ War in America – Hartmut Lehmann: Nationalism as Poison in the Veins of Western Christianity, c. 1800 – c. 1950

Confessional Modernities, Enlightenment and Secularization
John Betz: J. G. Hammann as a Radical Reformer: Two Mites Toward a Post-Secular, Ecumenical Theology – Volker Leppin: Friedrich Gogarten’s Theology of Secularization

Confessional Cultures: Legal and Diaconical Traditions
Christoph Strohm: Confession and Law in Early Modern Europe – Johannes Eurich: The Influence of Religious Traditions on Social Welfare Development: Observations from the Perspective of Comparative Welfare State Research

Scripture and the Evangelical-Pietist Tradition
Ryan P. Hoselton: »Flesh and Blood Hath Not Revealed It«: Reformation Exegetical Legacies in Pietism and Early Evangelicalism – Douglas A. Sweeney: The Still-Enchanted World of Jonathan Edwards’ Exegesis and the Paradox of Modern Evangelical Supernaturalism

Scriptural Authority and Biblical Scholarship in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Friederike Nüssel: The Value of the Bible: Martin Kähler’s Theology of Scripture and its Ecumenical Impact – David Lincicum: Ferdinand Christian Baur, the New Testament, and the Principle of Protestantism – Matthias Konradt: Sola Scriptura and Historical-Critical Exegesis

An Introduction to the History of Theology

Voici la première histoire de la théologie destinée à un public protestant francophone. Des premières ébauches théologiques de l’Antiquité chrétienne jusqu’aux débats contemporains en passant par les développements de la théologie médiévale, cette Introduction présente les grandes thématiques qui seront au cœur des préoccupations des théologiens de la Réforme, des Lumières et du XIXe siècle protestants.

Rédigée dans un langage accessible par les meilleurs spécialistes du sujet, elle s’adresse aussi bien aux amateurs que la théologie intéresse qu’aux étudiants désireux d’approfondir leurs connaissances.

Avec les contributions d’André Birmelé, Christophe Chalamet, Gilbert Dahan, André Encrevé, Pierre-Olivier Léchot (éd.), Élisabeth Parmentier, Jennifer Powell McNutt, Jean-Marc Tétaz, Anna Van den Kerchove, Marc Vial et Lothar Vogel

I’m grateful for the review copy provided by the editor. The table of contents follows:

  • Avant-propos, Pierre-Olivier Léchot
  1. Chapitre premier. Formation de théologies chrétiennes dans l’Antiquité tardive. Anna Van den Kerchove
  2. Chapitre II. La théologie en Occident 500-1200. Gilbert Dahan
  3. Chapitre III. Le Moyen Âge (v. 1200-v. 1500). Marc Vial
  4. Chapitre IV. Le temps des Réformes (v. 1500-v. 1565). Lothar Vogel
  5. Chapitre V. La théologie protestante à l’âge des confessions (1565-1685). Pierre-Olivier Léchot
  6. Chapitre VI. La théologie protestante durant les Lumières. Jennifer Powell McNutt
  7. Chapitre VII. Des Lumières au néoprotestantisme. La transformation de la théologie protestante à l’époque moderne.  Jean-Marc Tétaz
  8. Chapitre VIII. La théologie protestante au XIXe siècle. André Encrevé
  9. Chapitre IX. La théologie protestante au XXe siècle. Christophe Chalamet
  10. Chapitre X. Théologie(s) féministe(s) – une autre manière de concevoir la théologie. Élisabeth Parmentier
  11. Chapitre XI. L’œcuménisme (XXe-XXIe siècles). André Birmelé
  • Index des noms

Each of the contributors responsibly highlights the chief points and persons of the period under their consideration.  And that is quite a feat indeed.  Imagine, if you will, the task of determining the most important events, persons, and theological movements for a period of a few hundred years and then distilling it all into a prose account that is both coherent and accurate and you can quickly perceive both the enormity of the task and its challenges.  And in spite of those challenges, each of our contributors manages spectacularly.

Vogel’s work in chapter four, for example, examines the historical background; the knowing of which alone makes the debates of the Reformation comprehensible.  He then narrows his focus on the Wittenberg School and its interest in the doctrine of faith, its scriptural hermeneutics, its understanding of justification, predestination, and ecclesiology.  Thoroughly treating these, and the chief persons involved in those debates, he next turns to an examination of Zwingli, Bullinger and Bucer.   And I’m really quite pleased to say that he gets Zwingli and Bullinger right.  Bucer experts will need to evaluate Vogel’s work on him.  He also gets Calvin right, whom he treats next, and quite interestingly, as a sub-heading under the major heading of those three great men previously named.   In other words, he knows that Calvin is a branch growing from another trunk.

After describing the growth of the Reformed tradition, Vogel addresses the red-headed step child of the Reformation: the Radicals and finally he brilliantly explains the Catholic reaction to the ideas of the Reformation.  The chapter ends with a very thorough bibliography which cites modern critical editions of the Reformers works along with important secondary literature in German, French, and English.

The chapter devoted to the Protestant Theology of the 20th Century by Chalamet is also really remarkably well executed.  He begins by discussing the essence of 20th century theology and then glances backward a bit to the leading theological notions of the late 19th century as exemplified by Troeltsch and Herrmann and von Harnack.

Next on the agenda is a study of the ‘Theology of the Word’ and of course this brings us to Barth and those in his sphere of influence and then those who stood alongside and opposite him- Bultmann and Brunner.  The chapter, however, doesn’t end with Barth and Brunner (as though they alone were the representatives of 20th century Christian theology).  Tillich too and Catholic thought also come to be evaluated and described.

Chalamet then takes a half step back and discusses the rise of Naziism and the response to it by the leading Christian thinkers of the time.  Process theology, Post Dialectical Theology (as represented by the likes of Pannenberg and Moltmann) are discussed too, not to mention Black theology and Green theology and others.

Along with these two chapters, the remainder too fantastically show the chief movements and movers of Christian theology from the beginning to the present.

This volume is a gift to Church historians and historians of Christian doctrine.  It should be read by all students of the history of the Church.  I highly, highly recommend it.

An Ocean Of Light

An Ocean of Light: Contemplation, Transformation, and Liberation

Out of the blue this book arrived today from Oxford University Press (thanks!).

For people drawn to a life of contemplation, the dawning of luminous awareness in a mind full of clutter is deeply liberating. In the third of his best-selling books on Christian contemplative life, Martin Laird turns his attention to those who are well settled in their contemplative practice. 

An Ocean of Light speaks both to those just entering the contemplative path and to those with a maturing practice of contemplation. Gradually, the practice of contemplation lifts the soul, freeing it from the blockages that introduce confusion into our identity and thus confusion about the mystery we call God. In the course of a lifetime of inner silencing, the flower of awareness emerges: a living realization that we have never been separate from God or from the rest of humanity while we each fully become what each of us is created to be. In contemplation we become so silent before God that the “before” drops away. Those whose lives have led them deeply into the silent land realize this, but not in the way that we realize that the square root of 144 is 12.

Laird draws from a wide and diverse range of writers–from St. Augustine, Evagrius Ponticus, and St. Teresa of Avila to David Foster Wallace, Flannery O’Connor, Virginia Woolf, and Franz Wright–to ground his insight in an ancient practice and give it a voice in contemporary language. With his characteristic lyricism and gentleness, Laird guides readers through new challenges of contemplative life, such as making ourselves the focus of our own contemplative project; dealing with old pain; transforming the isolation of loneliness and depression into a liberating solidarity with all who suffer; and the danger of using a spiritual practice as a strategy to acquire and control.

It’s not really my normal fodder and I am not what you would call mystically inclined or into the whole ‘inner life questing for depth’ sort of person.  But I think I’ll read it because it might be a nice break from historical theology and exegesis.  Who knows, I might even like it (or this may turn out very badly indeed…).  So, there’s reading at the In-Laws on Christmas day waiting for the annual Christmas breakfast of gift exchange fest sorted.

The Tyndale House (Cambridge, so the real one) Reader’s Edition of the Greek New Testament

This is good news:

The highly anticipated Reader’s Edition of the Greek New Testament text combines the Tyndale House Greek New Testament with a running list of glosses of every word in the Greek New Testament that occurs 25 times or less.

Published by Crossway, the THGNT Reader’s Edition is the next stage in the work undertaken by the Editor, Dr Dirk Jongkind, and Associate Editor, Dr Peter J. Williams, to provide a text of the Greek New Testament that reflects as closely as possible its earliest recoverable wording.

Crossway have graciously sent along a review copy.

The edition I received was the hardback in slip cover, black.  The Preface tells the particulars of the coming into existence of the reader’s edition.  In great detail.  And was written by one Drayton Benner, whom I take to be the chief computer whiz behind the compilation and insertion of the thousands of lexical notes which make the earlier published Tyndale Greek New Testament even more useful and endearing than the first iteration of the edition.

The biggest change between the reader’s edition and the regular (!) edition is that the reader’s has no textual apparatus.  The bottom of the page is instead filled with lexical entries (which only makes sense given the purpose of the edition).

The Introduction is the same as the Introduction to the earlier Tyndale GNT, leading readers into the particulars of the volume’s construction and execution.

The order of the New Testament books is the same as the Tyndale GNT. The beautiful font has also been retained in the new iteration as has the page layout.  Here’s an example:

Notice the way that each line begins, where appropriate, with the same Greek word.  This visual makes it very easy to see the form and format of the passage in question in an immediate and gripping way.  The list of those greeted pops off the page.

The lexical glosses themselves are quite good and I have yet to find any error among them.  Though as always, users of reader’s editions must be cautioned that words have very wide ranges of usage and the gloss chosen by the glossator may not always be the best choice.  It behooves students of Scripture to take advantage of full-blown lexica and not rely solely on a single glossed meaning.  Still, when simply reading is the aim, such a system of single-meaning glosses is quite acceptable.

The present volume is a great addition to any New Testament reader’s toolbox of intellectually stimulating implements.  Crossway is to be congratulated for producing and publishing such an exemplary work.

Jesus, Paul and the Early Church

This volume has arrived for review today.  When it is finished, that review will appear here.

This volume contains seventeen essays written by Eckhard J. Schnabel, written over the past 25 years. The essays focus on the realities of the work of Jesus, Paul, John, and the early church, exploring aspects of the history, missionary expansion, and theology of the early church including lexical, ethical, and ecclesiological questions. Specific subjects discussed include Jesus’ silence at his trial, the introduction of foreign deities to Athens, the understanding of Rom 12:1, Paul’s ethics, the meaning of baptizein , the realities of persecution, Christian identity and mission in Revelation, and singing and instrumental music in the early church.

I’m Reading Lincoln Harvey’s Book…

My feelings towards it…  will appear in full in the Reading Religion review that will appear soon.  For now, let me say briefly that though I like Lincoln very much and though I enjoyed a couple of the essays (those by Harvey, Jenson, and Tilling) the majority of the contributions can be characterized by one word: awful.  Awful because rather, to be plainspoken, boring and irrelevant.  The attempts of Begbie, Wright, and especially Green try too hard to be clever and the result is anything but.  S. Wright’s was simply unreadable.  Brink’s was intolerably dull.  Canlis’s was what can only be called idiosyncratic.  And Campbell’s was, well, Campbell-esque (meaning heterodox).

One day people will realize that trinitarian speculation is an intellectual and theological cul-de-sac and they will stop doing it.  Today, sadly, as exemplified in this work, is not that day.

I wish that I could recommend this volume in its entirety.  But honesty dictates I not.  Parts are useful.  But that’s all.  Just parts.

Reforming Priesthood in Reformation Zurich: Heinrich Bullinger’s End-Times Agenda

Jon D. Wood
Reforming Priesthood in Reformation Zurich
Reformed Historical Theology 54
ISBN 13: 978-3-525-57092-0

The dramatic task of re-imagining clerical identity proved crucial to the Renaissance and Reformation. Jon Wood brings new light to ways in which that discussion animated reconfigurations of church, state, and early modern populace. End-Times considerations of Christian religion had played a part in upheavals throughout the medieval period, but the Reformation era mobilized that tradition with some new possibilities for understanding institutional leadership. Perceiving dangers of an overweening institution on the one hand and anarchic “priesthood of all believers” on the other hand, early Protestants defended legitimacy of ordained ministry in careful coordination with the state. The early Reformation in Zurich emphatically disestablished traditional priesthood in favour of a state-supported “prophethood” of exegetical-linguistic expertise. The author shows that Heinrich Bullinger’s End-Times worldview led him to reclaim for Protestant Zurich a notion of specifically clerical “priesthood,” albeit neither in terms of statist bureaucracy nor in terms of the traditional sacramental character that his precursor (Huldrych Zwingli) had dismantled. Clerical priesthood was an extraordinarily fraught subject in the sixteenth century, especially in the Swiss Confederation. Heinrich Bullinger’s private manuscripts helpfully supplement his more circumscribed published works on this subject. The argument about reclaiming a modified institutional priesthood of Protestantism also prompts re-assessment of broader Reformation history in areas of church-state coordination and in major theological concepts of “covenant” and “justification” that defined religious/confessional distinctions of that era.

The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective

Frank van der Pol
The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective
Refo500 Academic Studies (R5AS) 51,
ISBN 13: 978-3-525-57070-8

In 11 essays The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective reflect ongoing investigations concerning the doctrine of election, with special focus on the Synod of Dort 1618–19. Important lines of demarcation between different Reformed orthodox groups and denominations find their root divergence, as well as historical concentration point, in relation to this very issue. The ongoing research presented in this collection can open up a fresh field of fertile investigation for theological discussion. Moreover, she may lead to interdisciplinary perspectives and a cooperative approach to research, also beyond the field of theology. For this too is the field of philosophers and historians, those who trace the history of Christianity or are studying early modern Europe.

The volume consists of three sections. In the first Part three essays reflect historical and philosophical issues before the Synod of Dort. Part Two explores aspects of the Synod of Dort itself. The focus in Part Three is on the reception of the Synod of Dort. Finally, the following question is answered: How were the Canons of Dort regarded in the 17th–19th century, and what does the history of their editions tell us?

The editor, Frank van der Pol, was the program leader of the combined research group Early Modern Reformed Theology (EMRT) of the theological universities Apeldoorn and Kampen. In cooperation with the A Lasco Bibliothek Emden the EMRT organized an international conference on Oct. 29 and 30, 2014 about the doctrine of election in reformed perspective. The research group is convinced that the dual line of research on history and theology of the Reformation tradition must continue and be strengthened. On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort, the researchers, wanting to do their work in a broader context with a wider dialogue, make their proceedings accessible for more people and institutes by publishing them in this volume.

Christian Origins and the Establishment of the Early Jesus Movement

Christian Origins and the Establishment of the Early Jesus Movement explores the events, people, and writings surrounding the founding of the early Jesus movement in the mid to late first century. The essays are divided into four parts, focused upon the movement’s formation, the production of its early Gospels, description of the Jesus movement itself, and the Jewish mission and its literature. This collection of essays includes chapters by a global cast of scholars from a variety of methodological and critical viewpoints, and continues the important Early Christianity in its Hellenistic Context series.

Christoph Heilig has an essay in it.

The table of contents is available on the publisher’s website.  In what follows, rather than attempting to persuade you to either read this volume or ignore this volume, I will simply provide a few excerpts from this volume.  And then you can decide for yourself, after seeing the table of contents, whether or not it is something that interests you and fits your research needs.

I will say that if you’re a student of the early church, this is a very valuable and helpful work.  But, again, I think you should inevitably decide for yourself.  Here are some of the things suggested herein:


  • This study will focus on literary and tradition historical aspects of the Gospels’ presentation of Jesus’s disciples. Which strategies, models, and motifs are recognizable and from which cultural contexts are they derived?   (p. 71)
  • An important aspect of the Gospels’ representation of the disciples is the emphasis on their inferiority to their master. (p. 79)
  • In comparison to the relatively small circles of students associated with rabbis, twelve disciples would have constituted a crowd. In rabbinic narratives usually only two or three students are mentioned by name, despite the fact that some general statements refer to the “many disciples” of R. Aqiva or other prominent rabbis.  (p. 83)
  • Sociologists have pointed to the significance of the “perceived popularity” of an individual: the more popular a person is considered to be, the more friends and adherents that person can gain in the course of time. (p. 84)


  • New Testament scholars often accept as a given the assertion well stated by the Jesus Seminar: “The concept of plagiarism was unknown in the ancient world. Authors freely copied from predecessors without acknowledgment.”  When looking at our Gospels, this assertion seems prima facie true, perhaps lending to its common acceptance. If however plagiarism was known (and condemned) in antiquity, then we are justified in asking if the Gospel of Matthew, for example, is guilty of plagiarizing the Gospel of Mark, i.e., Was Matthew a plagiarist?  (p. 108)


  • An Imminent Parousia and Christian Mission: Did the New Testament Writers Really Expect Jesus’s Imminent Return?  (p. 242)
  • This essay will explore this claim from the perspective of Mark and Paul. (p. 242)


  • This essay will discuss the question of how recent trends in Pauline studies—the emergence of the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” (in the following: NPP)—have influenced the perception of the two foundational figures of Paul and Peter in relation to the historical question of how it came to be that Gentiles became an important part of the early Christian movement.  (p. 459)
  • In what follows, we will thus have to pay close attention to both how Wright’s and Dunn’s shared assumptions influence their interpretation of Paul and Peter regarding the “Gentile problem” and how they differ in their assessment due to specifics of their individual interpretive frameworks.  (p. 463)
  • On the one hand, there is no indication that Peter had ever changed his view on a Gentile mission since his encounter with Cornelius. There is in particular no reason to assume that a real change of mind occurred after the meeting in Jerusalem.  (p. 483)

Naturally there are a whole array of other essays which could be excerpted but these four scholars have written the, to me, most interesting of the contributions to the volume.  Hezser’s in particular is really a fascinating work, laced with amazing facts and details.  Richards’ is perhaps the most groundbreaking (and potentially the most relevant for modern academia).  Keown’s may be the most well written.  And Heilig’s is, I think, the most learned and erudite.

The other essays in the work all participate in a mixture of fascinating, groundbreaking, well written and erudite.  The whole is worth reading. The four above are worth reading most of all.

This Applies to So Many Books These Days…

So if you’re attending #SBLAAR18 a word of advice- buy wisely my friends. Buy wisely.


Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition

Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition offers the complete text of the Greek Old Testament as it appears in the Rahlfs-Hanhart revised Septuaginta, laid out in a clear and readable format. All deuterocanonical books are included, as well as all double-texts, which are presented on facing pages for easy textual comparison. In order to facilitate natural and seamless reading of the text, every word occurring 100 times or fewer in the Rahlfs-Hanhart text (excluding proper names)—as well as every word that occurs more than 100 times in the Rahlfs-Hanhart text but fewer than 30 times in the Greek New Testament—is accompanied by a footnote that provides a contextual gloss for the word and (for verbs only) full parsing. Additionally, an appendix provides a complete alphabetized list of common vocabulary (namely, all the words that are not accompanied by a footnote), with glosses and (as applicable) comparison of a word’s usage in the Septuagint to its usage in the New Testament.

All of these combined features will make Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition an indispensable resource for biblical scholars and an excellent tool for improving one’s comprehension of the Greek language. In addition, each volume will include two ribbon markers.

Hendrickson has sent along a review exemplar.  I first heard of the project from William Ross at SBL a few years ago (in San Antonio over breakfast with my best friend Jim Aitken)(Jim will judiciously deny that little friend fact of course but it’s true) and was so excited then that I hounded the poor boy mercilessly about it.  I’m so pleased to see all their hard work come to fruition.

The opening sections of each volume (there are two) include the same information:

  1. About Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition
  2. How to Use this Edition
  3. Advanced Information on Septuagint Studies
  4. Select Bibliography
  5. Acknowledgments

The most extensive description is reserved for the second section.  In it, the editors discuss the text they have chosen to utilize, the chapter and verse system used, The vocabulary apparatus, headings, text divisions, and poetic formatting, and the glossary.

Aesthetically, the volumes are really quite lovely.  The edition in hand is the blue hardcover whose feel is very akin to the Septuagint of Rahlfs (the blue lovely thing that came out decades ago with a cloth feel).  The font is sharp and the binding is sturdy.  Each volume also offers two ribbon bookmarks sewn into the binding.  Unlike other DBG volumes there is no pull-out card including textual data.

The choice of Rahlfs-Hanhart as the base text was a good decision by the editors and I suppose the most practical since, although a reader’s edition based on the Göttingen Septuagint would be brilliant the fact that that edition is not yet complete makes it, as base-text, impossible.  Perhaps one day…

The difficulty with any reader’s edition of the biblical text always comes down to the choice of words used to define the Greek (or Hebrew) text being read.  Words, after all, have usage, not meaning; and how a word is used here or there is thoroughly determined by the context in which it finds itself.  So, for instance, σιωπαω may well suggest ‘keep silence’ at Deut 27:9 it can suggest ‘stop speaking’ (as an interruption of the act of speaking as it occurs) elsewhere.

Every translation, accordingly, is also an interpretation and every translational gloss is an interpretational move.  To be sure, sense and context go hand in hand and most translators have the sense to realize this.  A nonsensical rendering will immediately provoke offense in the mind of the intelligent reader.  Nonetheless, the very choice of gloss is itself a decision of interpretation.  And it’s worth reminding ourselves, and readers of this excellent volume, that this is the case.

The second thing that we need to remind readers of, and the editors do a great job of this, but it bears repeating, is that the glosses provided are merely a rough indicator of the possible range of usages for any word provided.  Taking with absolute seriousness the ‘Reader’s’ part in the title of the volumes, these volumes have as their singular purpose the provision of bare bones lexical data for those who are reading through the Septuagint.  Reading is the aim here, not in depth lexical study.  That task must still be pursued in the lexica and grammars and textual studies.

The volumes at hand, then, are intended to be books that are read.  Read with haste.  Read with vigor.  Read with the purpose of reading and reading along and reading alone and gaining first hand familiarity with the biblical text of the Old Testament in its Greek incarnation.  And they accomplish that aim admirably.

Were I to quibble (and I’m not really given to quibbling) I would have preferred to see fewer repetitions of the same glosses on the same page.  It seems that the same gloss could easily be indicated by the same number.  I.e., every occurrence of βλεπω needn’t have a separate gloss number when 1 or 4 or whatever would achieve the same goal.  And, allow me to hasten to add, I realize that there are computational restraints about which I know nothing.  I’m just mentioning my preferences.

Last century a wise theologian remarked to his students:  “Gentlemen, have you a Septuagint? If not, sell all you have, and buy a Septuagint.” ~Ferdinand Hitzig

You won’t need to sell everything you have to buy this edition of the Septuagint, you’ll just have to skip your daily trip to Starbucks for a few weeks.  Do it.

Righteous Gentiles: Religion, Identity, and Myth in John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel

In Righteous Gentiles: Religion, Identity, and Myth in John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, Sean Durbin offers a critical analysis of America’s largest Pro-Israel organization, Christians United for Israel, along with its critics and collaborators. Although many observers focus Christian Zionism’s influence on American foreign policy, or whether or not Christian Zionism is ‘truly’ religious, Righteous Gentiles takes a different approach.

Through his creative and critical analysis of Christian Zionists’ rhetoric and mythmaking strategies, Durbin demonstrates how they represent their identities and political activities as authentically religious. At the same time, Durbin examines the role that Jews and the state of Israel have as vehicles or empty signifiers through which Christian Zionist truth claims are represented as manifestly real.

This volume is not your father’s ‘take down’ of Christian Zionism and its lust to bring about the end of the world by Armageddon.  Instead, it is a reasoned, and nearly sympathetic (though not quite) examination of exactly what it is that makes Christian Zionism in general and the Christian Zionism of John Hagee in particular tick.

The table of Contents are available for your perusal here.

This book originated as a PhD thesis, which I began in late 2009 at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia (p. viii).

Furthermore, segments of chapters 3-7 have all appeared in various form in a variety of journals.

The author describes the theory at work thusly:

I use the term Christian Zionism in a way that firstly emphasizes the contingent, historical, and human origins of self-identified Christians’ support for Israel. Second, what makes this form of Zionism ‘Christian’ is the way that material or symbolic support for Israel is then coupled with rhetoric that claims transcendence and thus shifts its origins from the human or historical, toward providence as a representation of ‘true’ or authentic Christianity. As a result, Christian Zionism is represented as ‘authentically Christian’ for insiders, therefore elevating their claims to the realm of piety and making support for Israel and an affinity for ‘the Jewish people’ as much a part of these Christians’ identity as something as routine as baptism or being ‘born-again,’ while also encouraging others to share this view (p. 5).

Accordingly, the investigation involves deeply thinking about the structure and substance of Christian Zionism.  So rather than viewing it as simply a tool of Israeli society intending to co-opt American citizens, it is examined more profoundly.  To wit-

… rather than thinking about how Falwell and others might have been ‘used,’ it would be more fruitful, in my estimation, to consider what it is that made Falwell, and even more so Christian Zionists today, actively engaged and willing participants in all matters dealing with Israel.  A sceptic could similarly latch on the origin stories of cufi that attribute Netanyahu’s request to Hagee to establish cufi as another episode of Israeli government officials ‘using’ Christians for their own ends. While this may be true, it is also worth asking why it is important for cufi officials to cite Netanyahu’s request when discussing the formation of cufi  (p. 64).

Indeed, later on we read

It is not so much about ‘hastening Armageddon’ or the end times, precisely because, at least for the Christian leaders of cufi, those times are upon us. Rather it is about acting as God’s instruments and blocking activities that might impede God’s plans for the world. And this is the way that we might consider how apocalyptic beliefs relate to political action (p. 115).

And the core of the volume is this observation:

By representing themselves as the bearers of privileged knowledge about this enemy that is out to destroy Christians, Jews, and Western civilization, Christian Zionists’ discourse empties militant expressions of Islam of any history or nuance and instead transforms their characterizations of it as simply what it is by its very nature. One of the effects of these representations is that it renders the conflicts in the Middle East and around the world, and especially the issue of Israel’s borders, as cosmological; they become part of the realm of religion, and thus ahistorical, rather than disparate, contingent events that are the products of different historical and political circumstances (p. 138).


American support for and protection of Israel is rhetorically equated with the protection and flourishing of America, and in this sense their critique can be understood as a modern jeremiad (p. 174).

Christian Zionism is, at its barest, Americanism.  Israel serves, at the end of the day, to provide an opportunity for American Christians to gain favor with God – with the aim of protecting and expanding American power.  Israel is a means to an end; not to Armageddon or the end, but the expansion of American power.  This is the takeaway the present reader obtains from a careful reading of this book.

Or, to put it as the author does-

In this discursive construction, without Israel, America cannot survive. Yet it seems, at the same time, without America, nor can Israel, because in the eyes of many Christian Zionists, to be an American is to be an Israeli (p. 201).

And again

What struck me about these assertions, and others like them, was their attribution of the unequivocal return of personal ‘blessings’ that individuals are said to receive in return for blessing Israel (p. 203).

Christian Zionism is self serving.  And that is why it is popular among Hagee and other proponents of the prosperity Gospel (because, at least it seems to me, Christian Zionism and the prosperity gospel are planted firmly in the same people).

Zionism is, thus, fetishized by the Christian Zionists:

Through a logic that can be characterized as divine trickle-down economics, this claim is another example of the way Israel and its Jewish inhabitants are ascribed a fetishized mediating capacity, endowed with the ability to provide the conditions for all peoples to receive the blessings that Christian Zionists claim flow through them (p. 238).

Christian Zionism, as described in the present volume, is a phenomenon which betrays deeply disturbing political roots intermingled with dispensationalist theology and pseudo-Christian personal prosperity.

Read this book.  It is superb and supremely fair.