Category Archives: Book Review

Philippians: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching

Kerux Commentaries enable pastors and teachers to understand and effectively present the message of a biblical text. Kerux opens up each text of the Bible by explaining the message of the text to the original audience, unpacking the timeless truth of the passage, and finally providing communication insights for conveying that truth to a contemporary audience.

Each volume is written by a biblical scholar and a working pastor or homiletics scholar in partnership. Inclusion of a preaching author means that the commentary is centered on the biblical insights that are useful to a pastor as well as effective communication strategies and illustrations for each passage. Readers will discern the benefits of this throughout, as a resource designed and written with the real needs of regular proclamation always in sight.

A review copy arrived from the good folk at Kregel (without any expectations of the outcome) on 27 December.  I’ll let you know what I think of it in the next few days.

Divine Election in the Hebrew Bible

Here’s a new book that may be of interest.

cov652To citizens of the modern world the idea that someone or something might be especially elected by God seems problematic. If someone is elected, someone else is not elected. Does the God of all people have preferences? The idea that one particular nation should be elected by God is particularly difficult to accept.

Nevertheless, as this study intends to show, divine election is a central theme in the Hebrew Bible, and present in all its main parts. There are central acts of elections and less central acts of election. Abraham is elected as the founder of the people of Israel. Moses is elected as the ancestor of the religious and political people of Israel. David is elected as first of the Davidic kings. The election of these persons represents something more important than the persons themselves.

There are also other significant acts of election in the Hebrew Bible, especially the election of the land of Israel and of the city of Jerusalem. As well, there is the election of individuals such as the prophets. And even the Assyrians, the Babylonians and King Cyrus of Persia are presented as elected by God for special tasks.

A new full-length study of the important concept of divine election in the Hebrew Bible is long overdue, and Hagelia’s readable and balanced monograph can be expected to bring the topic back into contemporary conversation.

A review copy arrived some time back and here are my views:

Hagelia’s well presented monograph provides readers with the most thorough investigation of the concept of ‘election’ in the Hebrew Bible yet published.  Beginning with an introduction in which he sets out the reasons for his study, through the second chapter where terminology is examined and then on into the following chapters where, part by part, H. shows how the notion of election works in

  • The Primeval Story
  • The Patriarchs
  • Moses and Joshua
  • David and Solomon
  • The Land
  • Jerusalem
  • The People of Israel
  • Israel’s Remnant
  • Other Elections
  • Election Related Matters

And finally, the interesting question as to whether election can be lost.  The volume ends with a summary of the argument, a bibliography, an index of references, and an index of authors.

This brilliant tome has its tone set in the very first sentence of the book:

Divine election is a controversial matter.

To put it mildly!  H. then continues

Can we accept the idea that some people, or one particular people, are exclusively elected by God- at the expense of others?

H. uses the following pages to answer that question in a careful, methodical, insightful, and brilliant way.  With sublime learning and a depth of familiarity with primary and secondary texts one seldom finds in scholarship, H. makes the case that the notion of election is found in most of the Hebrew Bible and that it, in its many manifestations, it is centrally important.

All in all, divine election is a basic theme in the HB, on several levels.  It is one of the important keys to understanding biblical theology.

And then, brilliantly

Claimed to being elect in no way makes the elected judicially immune, which the history of Israel itself confirms.

This book makes a real contribution to the field of Hebrew Bible studies.  Students and Professors alike will benefit immensely from reading it.  You are urged, good reader, to make use of this book, because doing so will be richly rewarding.

Braucht der Mensch Erlösung?

Die Frage, ob der Mensch Erlösung braucht, ist für das Christentum zentral. Dieser diskussionsfreudige Band legt einen Schwerpunkt auf die Klärung der Erlösungsbedürftigkeit im vielfältigen Beziehungsgeflecht des Menschen zu sich selbst, zu seinen Mitmenschen, zur Welt und zu Gott. Weitere Fragen werden aufgeworfen: Wovon genau und durch wen wird der Mensch erlöst? Auf der Suche nach Antworten wird deutlich, dass Erlösung, die das Leben erschließt, konkret werden muss.

Der Band zur 21. Jahrestagung der Rudolf-Bultmann-Gesellschaft für Hermeneutische Theologie dokumentiert aus alt- und neutestamentlicher, kirchenhistorischer, systematisch-theologischer, praktisch-theologischer und jüdischer Perspektive Konzepte zur Beantwortung der aufgeworfenen Fragen.

Mit Beiträgen von Albrecht Grözinger, Lilian Marx-Stölting, Marianne Grohmann, Eckhart Reinmuth, Volker Leppin und Dorothee Schlenke.

A review copy came in the mail today.  As you can tell, I have some cool new things to read!

Mit dem Anfang anfangen: Stationen auf Karl Barths theologischem Weg

TVZ has published  Mit dem Anfang anfangen: Stationen auf Karl Barths theologischem Weg

Karl Barths Denken und Handeln folgte der Devise: Es gilt, als Christenmensch immer wieder mit dem Anfang anzufangen. In jeder Zeit ist jeweils neu auszugehen von dem, was Gott uns sagt. So bleiben Theologinnen und Theologen zeitlebens Schülerinnen und Schüler des Wortes Gottes.

Der Barth-Kenner Eberhard Busch zeichnet in diesem Buch anhand ausgewählter Stationen seinen theologischen Weg nach: Von den frühen Predigten (1911) über den aufsehenerregenden «Römerbrief» (1922), die deutlichen Stellungnahmen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, die grundlegenden Themen der «Kirchlichen Dogmatik» bis hin zum Ende seiner Tätigkeit 1967.

Das Buch regt dazu an, genau hinzuhören, was Barth in seiner Zeit gesagt hat und was er uns heute sagen würde. Denn Theologie hat nach Barths Auffassung die Aufgabe, sich einzumischen und die Probleme der Zeit zu benennen. Dabei hat sie nicht zu wiederholen, was die Mehrheit schon meint, sondern hat, wenn nötig, auf eine vergessene Wahrheit zu pochen.

Nothing Busch writes is unworthy of reading.  A review copy has arrived.

Ulrich Zwinglis Spiritualität: Ein Beispiel reformierter Frömmigkeit

Gottes Wort führt nicht auf Abwege und lässt niemanden in der Finsternis umherirren. Es speist den menschlichen Geist, erhellt die menschliche Seele mit allem Heil und allen Gnaden, erfüllt sie mit Gottvertrauen, sodass diese Gott in sich innerlich aufnimmt. Im Worte lebt sie, zum Worte strebt sie. (Zwingli 1522)

Ulrich Zwingli und die reformierte Tradition überhaupt sind spiritueller als ihr Ruf. Samuel Lutz zeigt auf, dass sich Zwinglis Spiritualität nicht im Verborgenen abspielt, sondern in das kirchliche, politische und alltägliche Leben ausstrahlt. Für Zwingli gehören sowohl geistliches und gesellschaftliches Leben als auch Theologie und Spiritualität untrennbar zusammen. Ein Schatz an Zitaten aus Zwinglis Schriften lassen Leserinnen und Leser unmittelbar eintauchen in Zwinglis Gedankenwelt und an seiner Spiritualität teilhaben.

A review copy has arrived.

Calvin and the Early Reformation

Those who have a passing knowledge of John Calvin’s theology and reforms in Geneva in the sixteenth century may picture the confident and mature theologian and preacher without appreciating the various events, people, and circumstances that shaped the man. Before there was Protestantism’s first and eminent systematic theologian, there was the French youth, the law student and humanist, the Protestant convert and homeless exile, the reluctant reformer and anguished city leader. Snapshots of the young Calvin create a collage that give a bigger picture to the grey-bearded Protestant reformer. Eleven scholars of early-modern history have joined in this volume to depict the people, movements, politics, education, sympathizers, nemeses, and controversies from which Calvin emerged in his young adulthood.

A review copy has arrived.  More soon.

Pauline Dogmatics: The Triumph of God’s Love

The eschatological heart of Paul’s gospel in his world and its implications for today

Drawing upon thirty years of intense study and reflection on Paul, Douglas Campbell offers a distinctive overview of the apostle’s thinking that builds on Albert Schweitzer’s classic emphasis on the importance for Paul of the resurrection. But Campbell—learning here from Karl Barth—traces through the implications of Christ for Paul’s thinking about every other theological topic, from revelation and the resurrection through the nature of the church and mission. As he does so, the conversation broadens to include Stanley Hauerwas in relation to Christian formation, and thinkers like Willie Jennings to engage post-colonial concerns.

But the result of this extensive conversation is a work that, in addition to providing a description of Paul’s theology, also equips readers with what amounts to a Pauline manual for church planting. Good Pauline theology is good practical theology, ecclesiology, and missiology, which is to say, Paul’s theology belongs to the church and, properly understood, causes the church to flourish. In these conversations Campbell pushes through interdisciplinary boundaries to explicate different aspects of Pauline community with notions like network theory and restorative justice.

The book concludes by moving to applications of Paul in the modern period to painful questions concerning gender, sexual activity, and Jewish inclusion, offering Pauline navigations that are orthodox, inclusive, and highly constructive.

Beginning with the God revealed in Jesus, and in a sense with ourselves, Campbell progresses through Pauline ethics and eschatology, concluding that the challenge for the church is not only to learn about Paul but to follow Jesus as he did.

Table of Contents
Part 1: Resurrection

1. Jesus
2. Vigilance
3. A God of Love
4. A God of Story
5. Resurrection & Death
6. Resurrection & Sin
7. Defending Resurrection
8. Election

Part 2: Formation

9. A Learning Community
10. Leaders
11. Love is All You Need
12. Loving as Giving
13. Loving as Faithfulness
14. Loving as Peacemaking
15. Loving as Enjoying

Part 3: Mission

16. An Apostolic Foundation
17. Defining the Other
18. The Triumph of Love
19. Mission as Friendship

Part 4: Navigation

20. Missional Diversity
21. Evaluating Paganism
22. Transforming Paganism
23. Request Ethics
24. Rethinking Creation
25. Navigating Sex and Marriage
26. Navigating Gender
27. Beyond Colonialism
28. Beyond Supersessionism
29. The Pastor’s Wisdom

A review copy arrived some time back, for which I thank the publisher.  Eerdman’s also published Campbell’s previous big volume, ‘The Deliverance of God’, which I did not at all like.  I happen, in fact, to agree with Bruce Clark’s take as published in the Tyndale Bulletin.  Of that earlier work, Clark wrote

Campbell launches a sustained attack against traditional theological conceptions of justification and aims to free Romans 1-4 (on which these conceptions seemingly rest) from a widespread rationalistic, contractual, individualistic (mis)reading, which gains its plausibility only by the modernistic theological superstructure forced upon it. Campbell then presents an in-depth re-reading of Romans 1-4 (as well as parts of chs. 9-11, Gal. 2-3, Phil. 3), in which Paul engages in a highly complex, ‘subtle’ polemic, creatively employing ‘speech-in-character’ as a means of subverting a Jewish Christian ‘Teacher’ whose visit to Rome threatens to undermine the Roman Christians’ assurance of salvation. Campbell argues that justification is participatory and liberative: Christ’s death and resurrection constitute the ‘righteousness/deliverance of God’, by which he justifies, or delivers, an enslaved humanity from the power of sin. This article concentrates primarily on Campbell’s own exegesis, concluding that, while important aspects of Campbell’s critique of both “justification theory” and traditional readings of Romans 1-4 must be carefully considered, his own exegesis is not only ingenious, asking too much of Paul and the letter’s auditors, but altogether untenable at key points.

Untenable is the right word.  It was, then, with no slight ‘fear and trembling’ that I made my way into Campbell’s nearly as big book this time.  Would it’s argument, too, be essentially untenable?  Would it suffer from the same sorts of eisegetical mis-steps?  And would its massive size (over 700 pages) be off-putting?

The answer to those questions cannot be either yes or no.  Instead, the answers to those questions and others is that the volume at hand is ‘complicated’.  On one hand, Campbell is a very good writer; and on the other, he tends to verbosity.  What could be said more briefly, without losing profundity, is instead said at sometimes numbing length.

In the movie ‘Amadeus’ there’s a scene where the Emperor encourages Mozart to cut the score of his opera down a bit, the Emperor exasperatingly remarking, ‘There are too many notes’.  Mozart reacts with a bit of dislike, ‘There are just as many notes as required, Majesty’.  And I suspect that Prof. Campbell would have the same reaction if he were to hear that his book has too many words.  But there are only so many words the mind can process before it grows overwhelmed.

Fortunately, the present work is on better footing than the previous ‘Deliverance’.  Though there are still places where Campbell’s exegesis is more like eisegesis.  In, for example, the chapter titled ‘Navigating Sex and Marriage’, Campbell seems to be trying much too hard to make ancient texts modern.  Campbell notes, e.g., on page 598, that Paul thinks in a ‘binary’ way.  How else would Paul have thought?  How else would anyone in all of the history of Christianity have thought about such issues except in binary terms before the last decade?

Furthermore, in the ‘Theses’ section of the chapter Campbell does his best to move readers beyond a traditional sexual ethic in order to encourage them to embrace a wider perspective on love and marriage.  This, of course, has nothing to do with Paul and everything to do with setting Paul aside and moving beyond him to a modern sexual ethic.  Paul is no longer the object of the study, but rather is merely the launching pad for a progressive Christian theological perspective.  Note Campbell’s wording in the final thesis:

‘The churches need to be concretely supportive and restorative here (as they should also be for any others burdened by these structures and their function)’ (p. 620).

In sum, traditional ethics are a burden placed on teens and when said teens wish to explore other avenues of sexual expression, churches should help to unburden them.

What we have, then, in short, is a treatment of Pauline theology that is really a description of Campbell’s own theology.  In much the same way that Karl Barth’s treatment of ‘Romans’ was more Barth than Paul, Campbell’s ‘Pauline Dogmatics’ is more Campbell than Pauline.

Which brings me to the next observation concerning Campbell’s book:  he is too dependent on Barth and not dependent enough on exposition of texts.  There is scarcely a segment of the book that doesn’t call on Barth’s testimony in an effort to make the case but there is very little exposition throughout.  This, though, in its own way fits nicely into Campbell’s appreciation of Barth, since Barth, too, had little interest in the text of Scripture aside from using it as a spring-board for his own intentions.

Another oddity in terms of the book’s contents is what is NOT included.  The title of the book is ‘Pauline Dogmatics’, which leads one to suspect that the chief theological concerns of Paul will appear at some point.  Yet, strikingly absent, is a chapter or even a section on ‘Justification’.  Indeed, the word does not even appear in the subject index.  Once.

Even casual readers of Paul are familiar with his interest in justification.  One merely needs to read Romans 1-6 and that becomes abundantly clear.  Yet a volume titled ‘Pauline Dogmatics’ has deemed it less important a topic than ‘Colonialism’, which Paul would have known nothing about (in terms of the modern notion of colonialism), which nonetheless has a chapter all its own.

Mind you, I enjoyed reading this great big volume.  I liked the fact that Campbell gives readers short subsections to break up the massive thing.  I like the fact that Campbell offers ‘theses’ at the end of each chapter which nicely summarize the argument of each.  I like the ‘key scriptural references’ section at the end of each chapter too, although these are a tad cherry picked and don’t necessarily include texts showing different perspectives (Paul, after all, was the kind of guy who contradicted himself).

Each chapter also has a short ‘key reading, further reading, and bibliography.  And, unsurprisingly, Barth appears – constantly.

Before you go away thinking I disapprove of this book, I don’t.  I like it.  I just wish it had a different title.  I would call it ‘Campbell’s Dogmatics’.  And leave Paul out of it.  Since, as far as I can tell, Paul isn’t in it anyway.

The Etymology Calendar

What does the word lord have to do with bread? How is smile related to mirror? Why is Donald such an appropriate name for an American president?

These and 363 other questions are answered in the Etymology Calendar of 2020. This popular scientific calendar provides an insight into the fascinating world of historical linguistics for anyone with an interest in languages. It treats the surprising histories behind words you use on a daily basis, but also contains interesting developments from tens of other languages. An essential collection of etymological trivia for every language enthusiast!

Brill have sent a review copy, which I appreciate.  And, I think, anyone who is interested in language will also appreciate this desk calendar.  It’s a page a day, tearaway which features a simple word of the day from its origins.  The best way to illustrate this, I think, is to simply show you a sample page.

So the calendar opens with this page

And as you leaf through to each successive day, you’re provided a word for that day.  You know how such things work, surely.

Today’s entry is this:

What’s not to love about such a calendar?  There’s plenty of space to make notes about events or appointments, if one were to wish to use it as an appointment calendar.  And if not, there’s a linguistic lesson for each day of the year.

Nerdy language folk will love it.  Get yourself one.  And then get yourself one next year too.  Or if words aren’t your thing (what kind of monster are you????), get one for your linguistics pals.  They’ll be grateful.

Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament

The Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament is a tool for theologians and others interested in interpreting the Greek New Testament. It is a reference grammar that systematically covers all areas relevant to well-founded text interpretation including textgrammar. Combining accuracy with accessibility was one of the main objectives in producing the book. The information it provides is based on the best of traditional and more recent research in the study of Ancient Greek and linguistic communication. Differences between classical and non-classical usage are regularly indicated. The mode of presentation is largely shaped by the needs of prospective users, who are typically unacquainted with the details of linguistic research. Aiming at both a professional quality of content and user-friendly presentation, a tool was produced that aims to be of service to novices and more experienced exegetes alike.

Peter Lang has just published this English version of von Siebenthal’s excellent grammar which has been previously published in German.

I’m reviewing it for a Journal.  So watch for it in a fair bit of time.

Born Again: The Evangelical Theology of Conversion in John Wesley and George Whitefield

The gospel message is simple but not simplistic. Learning the gospel and its implications is a lifelong process, but modern evangelicals are often too focused on the moment of conversion while ignoring the ongoing work of sanctification. For John Wesley and George Whitefield, justification and sanctification were inseparable.

In Born Again, Sean McGever maps Wesley’s and Whitefield’s theologies of conversion, reclaiming the connection between justification and sanctification. This study helps evangelicals reassess their thin understanding of conversion, leading to a rich and full picture of the ongoing work new Christians face.

A review copy has arrived from Lexham.  More soon.

Reformierter Protestantismus im 20. Jahrhundert

Eine Geschichte des reformierten Protestantismus in Deutschland im 20. Jahrhunderts ist bisher nicht erschienen. Sie ist ein dringendes Desiderat, da die Reformierten in der Erforschung der neueren Kirchengeschichte wenig Beachtung finden, obwohl sie immer wieder besondere Facetten und Nuancen innerhalb des Protestantismus darstellten. Dass Reformierte sich als Minderheitenkonfession zumeist marginalisiert empfunden und ein entsprechendes Selbstverständnis gera-dezu habituell gepflegt haben, ist ein mitlaufender Untersuchungsgegenstand der Beiträge dieses Bandes.

Sie behandeln repräsentative Personen (Theologen, Kirchenfunktionäre, aber auch eine Gemeindeschwester), Regionen und Milieus, charakteristische Themen, Zeitabschnitte wie den Ersten Weltkrieg und den Kirchenkampf, herausragende Jahre wie auch Jubiläen, in denen sich das Selbstverständnis der Reformierten manifestierte. Diese Studien zur Kirchlichen Zeitgeschichte wollen ergänzende Beiträge für die Kirchengeschichtsschreibung sein sowie innerhalb des reformierten Protestantismus zum selbstkritischen Rückblick verhelfen.

Sie sind der Versuch einer Konfessionsgeschichte, die nicht einengt, sondern ergänzt und vertieft. Sie sind aus einer affirmativen Perspektive verfasst, sind aber weder apologetisch noch polemisch, sondern kritisch und dekonstruierend intendiert, sie sind wissenschaftlich zu verantworten und stellen gleichzeitig einen Beitrag zur konfessionellen Erinnerungskultur dar.

I appreciate the review copy that arrived today from V&R.  More anon.

The Lexham English Septuagint (LES), Print Edition

The Lexham English Septuagint (LES) is a new translation of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament writings used during New Testament times and in the early church. The LES provides a literal, readable, and transparent English edition of the Septuagint for modern readers. Retaining the familiar forms of personal names and places, the LES gives readers the ability to read it alongside their favored English Bible. Translated directly from Swete’s edition of the Septuagint, the LES maintains the meaning of the original text, making the Septuagint accessible to readers today.

The publisher has provided (kindly) a copy of the print edition (with no expectations concerning the outcome of a review).

In my estimation, the best way to think about a translation of the Bible is to compare it with the underlying Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text.  In this case, since our translators wish to render the LXX into English, we will take a look at several Greek texts and provide this new edition’s renditions.  In that way people who are familiar with Greek will be able to determine for themselves how accurate the translation is; and those unfamiliar with Greek will be provided with a reason for how the translation is evaluated.

First, then, Jeremiah 1:1-2 (in the Göttingen LXX)

Τὸ ῥῆμα τοῦ θεοῦ, ὃ ἐγένετο ἐπὶ Ιερεμίαν τὸν τοῦ Χελκίου ἐκ τῶν ἱερέων, ὃς κατῴκει ἐν Αναθωθ ἐν γῇ Βενιαμίν·  δς ἐγενήθη λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ιωσία υἱοῦ Αμως βασιλέως Ιουδα ἔτους τρισκαιδεκάτου ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ αὐτοῦ.

This is rendered by the Lexham LXX thusly-

The word of God that came to Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests, who dwelled in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin,  the word of God that came to him in the days of Josiah, son of Amos, the king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his kingdom.

The word ‘son‘ is understood by the Greek text but is not used.  The English translation uses the understood word even though it is absent from the Greek text.  This means that the translation is not ‘woodenly literal’ but offers sense for sense.  This is a good sign as it suggests a very useful and accurate translation.  But let’s look at another verse.

Psalm 23:1- (22:1 in the LXX)-

Κύριος ποιμαίνει με, καὶ οὐδέν με ὑστερήσει.

And the Lexham rendition-

The Lord shepherds me, and nothing will be lacking for me.

‘Nothing lacking for me’ could also be translated ‘and not one thing is missing’.  This, to me, is both more vivid and more faithful to the Greek text.  It also sounds more like English.  ‘Nothing will be lacking for me’ sounds stilted and unnatural.  So while accurate, it is less than it could be.

The LXX’s Isaiah 7:14 reads this way:

διὰ τοῦτο δώσει κύριος αὐτὸς ὑμῖν σημεῖον· ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Εμμανουηλ·

The Lexham rendering goes this way:

Because of this, the Lord himself will give you a sign: Look, the virgin ⌊will become pregnant⌋ and will bear a son, and you will call his name Immanuel.

Readers of the Hebrew Bible will know that the underlying Hebrew word used here is ‘almah’ which means ‘young lady’.  It does not use the word ‘bethulah’ which means ‘virgin’.  The LXX, however, uses the word normally describing a ‘virgin’ (under Christian influence?) and not just a young lady.  Curiously, in the electronic edition, the Lexham LXX has ‘maiden’ in place of ‘virgin.’  Apparently this newer work decided to retain the LXX’s understanding rather than adopting the Hebrew viewpoint (as reflected in the electronic edition).

These samplings give potential readers of this new print edition some idea of the method and contents of the English translation of the Septuagint.  Lexham has done a good job in translating the underlying Greek text both fairly and accurately, even if at times other translation choices would have been better.

But that’s the thing about translation: it is both science and art.  And even between the earlier electronic edition and the current print edition there are subtle adjustments because, and this is important, our understanding is always growing and our translations should be adjusted accordingly.

Anyone who believes that there’s such a thing as a timeless translation of the Bible understands neither the nature of translation (as art and science) nor the Biblical text itself.  None less than Luther himself realized the peril of translation when he wrote the following after the publication of his 1522 ‘September Testament’-

Secondly, you might say that I have conscientiously translated the New Testament into German to the best of my ability, and that I have not compelled anyone to read it. Rather I have left that open, only doing the work as a service to those who could not do it better. No one is forbidden to do it better! If someone does not wish to read it, he can let it lie, for I do not ask anyone to read it or praise anyone who does so. It is my Testament and my translation, and it shall remain mine. If I have made some mistakes in it (although I am not aware of any, and would most certainly be unwilling to deliberately mistranslate a single letter) I will not allow the papists to be my judges. For their ears are still too long and their hee-haws too weak for them to criticize my translating. I know quite well how much skill, hard work, sense and brains are needed for a good translation. They know it even less than the miller’s donkey, for they have never tried it.

It is said, “He who builds along the road has many masters.” That is how it is with me also. Those who have never been able to speak properly (to say nothing of translating) have all at once become my masters and I must be their pupil. If I were to have asked them how to turn into German the first two words of Matthew, Liber Generationis, not one of them would have been able to say Quack! And now they judge my whole work! Fine fellows! It was also like this for St. Jerome when he translated the Bible. Everybody was his master. He alone was totally incompetent, and people who were not worthy to clean his boots judged the good man’s work. It takes a great deal of patience to do good things in public. The world believes itself to be the expert in everything, while putting the bit under the horse’s tail. Criticizing everything and accomplishing nothing, that is the world’s nature. It can do nothing else.

Translating is hard work.  And no matter how well you do it, you will have critics.  Sadly, most of the time those critics are the very people least equipped to do the work themselves.

So, Lexham, I applaud you for your excellent work.  I quibble with bits and pieces of it, but all in all, it is well done and deserves to sit on the shelves of all who would wish to understand the Septuagint but who, for whatever reason, cannot manage to read it for themselves in Greek.

A Most Excellent Way: An Essay on Faith, Hope, and Love

This new book is an English translation of Une voie infiniment supérieure: Essai sur la foi, l’espérance et l’amour by Christophe Chalamet.

Faith, hope, and love are the three core realities of Christian existence. Far from being self-grounded, they are rooted in God’s action and being in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Reflecting on the meaning these three realities have for us today, Christophe Chalamet argues that we gain a deeper understanding of them as we consider them in their interrelation, rather than separately. The first disciples sometimes described their burgeoning tradition as “the Way.” The apostle Paul, who reflected on faith, hope, and love in his epistles, praised love as “a most excellent way.” This book in constructive theology, drawing from a wealth of thinkers from the Christian tradition broadly conceived, presents faith, hope, and love as the abiding response to God’s faithfulness, God’s justice, and God’s love, for the sake of this world.

I love Christophe’s work and I’m very excited to review this (a copy for which purpose the publisher has provided).

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 brought 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.

Hendrickson’s ‘Book By Book’ Guides

Hendrickson has recently published A Book by Book Guide to Septuagint Vocabulary and A Book by Book Guide to New Testament Greek Vocabulary.

These two works are described by the publisher thusly:

A Book-by-Book Guide to New Testament Greek Vocabulary is intended to help students, pastors, and professors who wish to read a particular book of the Bible in its original language to master the vocabulary that occurs most frequently in the book in question. In contrast to typical Hebrew and Greek vocabulary guides, which present vocabulary words based on their frequency in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament as a whole, this book presents vocabulary words based on their frequency in individual New Testament books, thus allowing readers to understand and engage with the text of a particular book easily and quickly.

The book also includes an appendix listing difficult principal parts for selected verbs that occur in the vocabulary lists and providing other advanced notes for additional words in the lists.

And

This book-by-book vocabulary guide provides an unparalleled resource for anyone interested in more effective reading and study of the Old Testament in Greek, commonly called the Septuagint. Aside from two full-scale specialist lexicons for the Septuagint, no other printed resource exists that provides concise and strategic guidance to the language of this important ancient corpus. With word lists organized by frequency of appearance in a given book or section of the Septuagint, this guide allows users to focus their study efforts and thus more efficiently improve their breadth of knowledge of Koine vocabulary. Furthermore, the vocabulary incorporated into the lists in this guide integrates lower-frequency New Testament vocabulary in a manner that enables the user to easily include or exclude such words from their study. Other key features of this vocabulary guide include carefully crafted lists that allow users to refresh higher-frequency New Testament vocabulary, to strategically study higher-frequency vocabulary that appears across the Septuagint corpus, and to familiarize themselves with the most common proper nouns in the Septuagint. Moreover, each chapter in this guide has been statistically tailored to provide the word lists necessary to familiarize the user with 90 percent of the full range of vocabulary in each book or section of the Septuagint.

The publisher has sent review copies of both, with no expectations of or requirements for the outcome of my review.

The volumes are what we used to describe as ‘word frequency lists’ but unlike the word frequency lists of olden times, when I was a lowly grad student, which were organized by frequency regardless of the books of the Bible in which they occurred, these lists follow the canonical order of the LXX and New Testament respectively.

In the LXX volume we begin with words that occur 88,461- 4,907 times in the entire LXX.  Then we whittle the lists down until we finish up with list 20, which lists words occurring 12 or fewer times.  Then our authors (Lanier and Ross) give us a collection of lists containing what they describe as ‘high frequency Septuagint vocabulary.  Next, lists of common Septuagint proper nouns.  And then, and only then, do we come to the lists of words which are found in the various books collected in the LXX.

This kind of resource is ideal for those wishing to expand their vocabulary (of Greek words that are found in the LXX).  The drawback, of course, is that one or two word ‘definitions’ are only helpful in a general way.  Further, there’s lots of repetition.  That is, if σακκος occurs in sufficient numbers in Ruth it is also listed in the vocabulary lists of other books as well.  Repetition isn’t a bad thing.  Indeed, it’s quite helpful to see a word presented in several lists over the course of the volume.  But it does add to the overall length of the work.  And that space, in my view, could have been occupied, for instance, by the words that occur in Job but one or two times.  Those are the words that generally cause problems for readers, rather than the words that occur 88,000 times.  Indeed, if a reader of the LXX isn’t familiar with words in Greek that are found tens of thousands of times, it’s highly unlikely that they are very familiar with the Greek language at all and probably aren’t trying to read the LXX in Greek anyway.

The New Testament guide is laid out in the same fashion, beginning with high frequency vocabulary – 19,865 times to 40 times.  Then our author leads us through each book of the New Testament in canonical order.  This time, however, we are introduced to words that occur 17 times and going all the way down to 3 times (for Matthew).  Other books begin at other frequencies and end at others as well.  Acts, for example, begins with words at 23 occurrences and finishes up with words found 3 times. 2 Timothy, on the other hand, begins at 4 occurrences and finishes up with words making only 1 appearance.  The New Testament volume also ends with a glossary.

Words are provided one or two word glosses here as well.  Which, again, though helpful, is also partially misleading (since words – as we all are aware- can have quite a range of meanings according to the context and the use to which they are put in that context).   To be sure, this is not a criticism, it is merely an observation and users of these two very helpful works need to remember (or perhaps be taught) that one word or two word definitions must always be investigated with a particular context in mind.

Greek, in short, is resistant to oversimplification.  As is, by the way, Hebrew.  And readers of the biblical text are beholden to keep that very simple yet very important fact in mind.

The great advantage of these two works is that they build basic vocabulary.  Basic.  Vocabulary.  And that is critical for readers of the biblical languages and students of the biblical text.  Their authors are to be thanked for them.

Lexham Geographic Commentary on Acts through Revelation

I was unaware of the existence of this book (and of the series of 4 other volumes with which it serves as part) until it arrived for review.  So I thank Lexham for sending it along, doubtless knowing of my great interest in such things.

My review will post tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

The Lexham Geographic Commentary on Acts through Revelation delivers fresh insight by drawing attention to the geographical setting for the spread of Christianity in the first century AD. Geography is a central concern in Acts, but the full significance of its geographical context is easily overlooked without a familiarity with the places, the types of transportation, the relative distances, and the travel conditions around the Mediterranean in the first century AD. Luke’s account mentions places from all over the known world, and Paul’s missionary travels covered an estimated 15,000 miles by land and sea.

Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8 literally map the future travels of the Apostles and provide the structure for the rest of the book: The Apostles will take the gospel from Jerusalem (1:1–8:3) to Samaria and Judea (8:4–40, 9:32–11:18), and finally throughout the Roman world and beyond (13:21–28:31). Geography also provides a new depth of insight into John’s letters to the seven churches in Rev 1–3. Their locations along key Roman mail routes suggest the letters may make up a single composite message to be received in stages as the letters are passed along from one church to the other. The references in Acts and Rev 1–3 cover the full geographical context for the first century Church since some of the cities Paul visits in Acts are later the locations of churches that receive his letters such as Ephesus (Acts 19; Eph 1:11 Tim 1:3). The Lexham Geographic Commentary gives you insight into the importance of all of these locations—both culturally and spatially—and provides a deeper understanding of the spread of early Christianity.

The title of the volume is a bit misleading, as this is not, in fact, a geographic commentary on Acts through Revelation.  It is a commentary on fragments and select passages from Acts through Revelation.  The first ten chapters cover only select passages in Acts (by a variety of scholars) and it isn’t until the eleventh chapter that snippets from Acts, 2 Cor, Hebrews, I Peter, and Revelation are included.

Snippets from Acts predominate.  Indeed, it isn’t until chapter 42 that Acts is left behind and we move to Philippians.  Then Colossians appears, 1 Thess, Philemon, 1 Peter, and then Revelation (through the letters to the Seven Churches only).

Poor James and Jude are evidently geographically empty.

Mind you, there are lots of maps, charts, graphs and other useful illustrative material along with a subject index, a Scripture index, image source listing, and brief bios of all the contributors.

If they had titled the volume ‘Lexham Geographic Handbook on Acts Through Revelation’ it would be a virtually perfect volume.  But as they didn’t, and instead called it a commentary (which it is not), I have to quibble.

A commentary is a particular genre which prospective readers understand to be a volume or volumes which takes the text as it unfolds and explains it.  Commentaries don’t hop and skip and jump from hither to yon frenetically.  They are organized canonically.  And this book is not.

Further, there are places where the content itself is a bit troubling (or questionable) from a biblical studies point of view.  In chapter 35 Eckhard Schnabel opines that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Paul was released from Roman imprisonment and made his way to Spain to carry out missionary work there.

Schnabel argues his case not on the scriptural evidence, since there is none, but on late secondary sources (which, as we all know, are seriously questionable as accurate historical sources).

After citing his secondary materials Schnabel writes

Many scholars accept these two passages as historical evidence that Paul was released from his (first) imprisonment in Rome, which allowed him to go to Spain.

Many more, however, do not.  Further on

It is a plausible assumption that Paul preached in Tarraco, but there were other cities that would have been plausible sites for missionary work…

Like Madrid or London I suppose.  Or Paris…  The point being that plausible assumptions are not the stuff of scholarship.  They are the stuff of fantasy.  The truth is, we simply have no reason to suggest that Paul made it to Spain.  The evidence is lacking.  He may have, but the best we can do is say ‘we don’t know that he did and we have no useful facts to say otherwise’.  As I remind students fairly often, ‘absence of evidence is evidence of nothing.’

It’s not all bad, however.  There are some genuinely excellent chapters.  Chapter 43, by Alan Cadwallader on Colossae is fantastically written and thoroughly unobjectionable.  And chapter 53 by Cyndi Parker on Laodicea is also exceptionally done.  The bibliographies are very good and, again, the maps are just fantastic.  Indeed, the maps alone are reason to obtain the volume.  Readers need merely be careful with the content because it is extremely conservative at points and thus not very useful (for academic purposes).

At the end of the day I would suggest you obtain a copy of this volume.  It’s worth having, even if it doesn’t live up to its title and its contents are dicey from time to time.

The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts – Two-Volumes

The manuscripts that form the Greek New Testament are scattered throughout the world and are usually only accessible to scholars and professionals. These were the manuscripts read by the earliest Christians, which comprised their “New Testament.” In his volumes, Philip Wesley Comfort bridges the gap between these extant copies and today’s critical text by providing accurate transcriptions of the earliest New Testament manuscripts, with photographs on the facing pages so readers can see the works for themselves. Comfort also provides an introduction to each manuscript that summarizes the content, date, current location, provenance, and other essential information, including the latest findings. This allows students and scholars to make well-informed decisions about the translation and interpretation of the New Testament.

Volume 1 includes manuscripts from Papyrus 1-72. Volume 2 includes manuscripts from Papyrus 75-139 as well as from the uncials. In addition, it features a special section on determining the date of a manuscript. This two-volume set replaces the previously published single volume Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, as it contains many new manuscripts, updated research, and higher quality images of all manuscripts previously covered.

A review copy of the set has arrived courtesy the good folk at Kregel (without any expectations for that review’s outcome).

These two volumes make the most important manuscripts immediately available to interested scholars.  Textual criticism is the foundation upon which all biblical studies must be constructed and these books aid that task immensely.  First, because the manuscripts are collected under one roof and second because the text is so sharply presented.

The first volume contains an important and extensive introductory section in which the authors introduce readers to their methodology, their procedure for dating manuscripts, their handwriting analysis, textual character, and finally, a bibliography for further study.  Then manuscript by manuscript they discuss

  • Contents
  • Date
  • Provenance
  • Housing location
  • Bibliography
  • Physical features
  • Textual character

Then follows an exact transcription of each particular ancient manuscript.

Not all of the aforementioned aspects occur with each text, but all those known do.  And in the case of groups of manuscripts (texts which belong together), the group is discussed more fully and extensively.

There are sporadically placed photos (black and white and of medium quality) throughout the two volumes with volume two containing a longer collection of photos at the end of the volume.

When manuscripts have blank spaces, those are indicated and when there are abbreviations in the manuscripts themselves, they too are indicated in the transcription.

These two books are indispensable for New Testament scholars, whether they be text critics or not.  Because the earliest texts are indisputably essential for any reconstruction of the biblical text and thus for the biblical message.

Scholars interested in more high resolution, color photos, can easily find them thanks to the internet and the availability online of early New Testament manuscripts.  But finding all of those manuscripts, and examining them, is extremely time consuming.  Here Comfort and Barrett have done all of the leg work for you.  If you wish to look more closely, you can.  But beginning here will be the sensible thing to do.

These two volumes are commended to your attention and, in my view, should be on your shelves.

Die Äbtissin, der Söldnerführer und ihre Töchter

Or, more fully, Christine Christ-von Wedel, Die Äbtissin, der Söldnerführer und ihre Töchter: Katharina von Zimmern im politischen Spannungsfeld der Reformationszeit. Unter Mitarbeit von Irene Gysel, Jeanne Pestalozzi und Marlis Stähli

Katharina von Zimmern förderte die Reformation in Zürich beträchtlich, als sie mit 46 Jahren das Fraumünsterstift der Stadt übergab. Kurz darauf heiratete sie den fünf Jahre zuvor in Zürich zum Tod verurteilten Söldnerführer Eberhard von Reischach, mit dem sie noch zwei Kinder hatte. Das ist längst bekannt. Aber es gibt über diese bemerkenswerte Frau und ihre Umgebung noch mehr zu berichten.

Neu gefundene und neu analysierte Quellen ermöglichen einen frischen und ungewohnten Blick auf die «Äbtissin» und die Reformation. Das Buch beleuchtet dabei das Zürcher Soldwesen, die Klosterpolitik der Stadt und Zwinglis Bündnispläne, aber auch die theologische, humanistische und höfische Literatur, die damals im Adel gelesen wurde, sowie das Alltagsleben mit seinen Kämpfen, Freuden und Leiden. Auch taucht eine junge Frau auf, die während Katharinas Äbtissinnenzeit zur Welt kam und deren Sohn behauptete, sie stamme vom Paar Reischach-Zimmern ab.

Christine Christ-von Wedel fügt die vielfältigen Themen der Reformationszeit zu einem farbigen detailreichen Panorama zusammen, das sich um Katharina von Zimmern entfaltet.

Christ-von Wedel here provides readers a very meticulously researched biographical investigation of one of the lesser known but immensely influential women of the early Reformation.  Both the table of contents and the foreword are available to readers at this link in pdf format.  A glance at the TOC provides the outline of the volume and the carefully structured historical reconstruction herein contained.

Concerning the subject: as Irene Gysel remarks in the foreword

Es sollte ein Roman werden. Nachdem das erste Buch über Katharina von Zimmern, herausgegeben 1999 von Barbara Helbling und mir, ausschliesslich historisch gesicherte Angaben enthielt, lag es nahe, die bewegte Lebensgeschichte der letzten Äbtissin des Zürcher Fraumünsters nochmals in etwas freierer Form nachzuerzählen. Schon ihre Kinder und Jugendzeit war abenteuerlich gewesen. Aufgewachsen in einer grossen Familie im Schloss Messkirch mit einer tatkräftigen Mutter und einem überaus begabten Vater, mehrmals vor der Pest in die Burg Wildenstein geflohen, dann durch das Unglück des Vaters aus Messkirch vertrieben, kam Katharina als Flüchtlingskind nach Weesen, wo gleichzeitig, sozusagen im Nachbarhaus, der sechsjährige Ulrich Zwingli bei seinem Oheim, Pfarrer und Dekan, unterrichtet wurde. Mit 18 Jahren wurde sie Äbtissin, nach 28 Jahren im Amt übergab sie die Abtei der Stadt, heiratete und gebar in hohem Alter noch zwei Kinder, bei der Geburt ihrer Tochter Anna war sie 47 Jahre alt. Es gibt zu Katharina von Zimmern erstaunlicherweise ganz wenige Quellen und vor allem kein Bild. Das lässt viel Raum für eine eigene Gestaltung.

To tell the story of von Zimmern and those in her circle, Christ-von Wedel assembles as many primary sources as possible and examines them in incredible detail.  She illustrates her research with numerous photos and images (83 of them to be precise) and provides an extensive list of those primary sources along with a chronology and other informative materials.  The book also features two ribbon bookmarks which I used to mark my place in the volume as I read through it and to mark the endnotes and their location for ease of access.

Von Zimmern was a person of incredible importance in the early years of the Zurich Reformation.  A fact recognized by none less than Zwingli himself, who signed a copy of one of his books (On Divine and Human Righteousness) on its title page for her.  That is, he gave her an autographed copy.  Her life and the lives of those closest to her are the subject of this work.  As the author notes of her work in the last sentence of the text

So sei hier innegehalten und der Versuchung widerstanden, vorwitzig in das Geheimnis von Katharinas Persönlichkeit eindringen zu wollen.

This is biography at its best because it shows magnificently the way that one life is always intertwined with many lives and can never be understood without a grasp of those intertwinings.  I commend this brilliant study to your attention and urge you to read it.  Not only to learn of one of the widely unknown yet immensely important women of the Reformation, but to learn how historical biographies can best be written.

Essays on the Book of Isaiah

Essays on the Book of Isaiah, by Joseph Blenkinsopp

This volume of essays by Joseph Blenkinsopp on different aspects of the book of Isaiah is the product of three decades of close study of the most seminal and challenging texts of the Hebrew Bible. Some of the essays deal with major themes in Isaiah, for example, universalism, theology and politics, and the Suffering Servant of the Lord God. Five of them are published here for the first time.

I can’t think of a single living person who knows more about Isaiah than Joe Blenkinsopp.  And no one has done more to further our understanding of that book.  Here collected, then, are 20 essays by an excellent scholar, 15 of which have appeared over a number of years across a variety of platforms.  5 additional essays that have never appeared before are also included.

The table of contents is available here, along with the first essay (which has never been published before), and the biblical index.

The essays appearing here for the first time are as follows:

  • The Formation of the Hebrew Bible Canon: Isaiah as a Test Case
  • Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background
  • The Sectarian Element in Early Judaism: The Isaian Contribution
  • Zion as Reality and Symbol in Psalms and Isaiah
  • The Suffering Servant, the book of Daniel, and Martyrdom

The remainder, as listed in the table of contents have, as suggested above, all appeared above in a variety of sources including journals and collections of essays.

Everyone who works in Isaiah studies knows the name of Joe Blenkinsopp and everyone who attends CBA or SOTS or SBL has seen him at one or more of those meetings.  Sleight of stature but powerful of intellect, hat wearing and mustachioed, he is a grave presence; an icon; a fixture.  His unflagging energy is inspiring and his intellectual vigor astonishing.

For those new on the scene of biblical studies, Joe was

Born in Durham, England. Taught at International Theological College, Romsey, U.K., Chicago Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University and University of Notre Dame from 1970; Guest-Professor at Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, 1998.  Member of several learned societies including Society of Biblical Literature, Society for the Study of the Old Testament (U.K., President 1999-2000), Catholic Biblical Association (President 1988-1989), European Association of Biblical Studies.  ATS Research grant 1978, Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford 1982-1983 with NEH grant, Mellon Retiree Research Grant 2005-2006.  Excavated at Tel Dan, Israel 1977 and at Capernaum, Israel  with Notre Dame University support 1980-1987. Rector of Ecumenical Institute, Tantur, Israel, 1978.  

And more, frankly.  Were all his publications, lectures, conference papers, and assorted other academic achievements listed the ‘world could not contain all the books’ that it would take.

I mention all that not merely to appear fawning (though Joe has long been a hero of mine); but to place him on the stage where he belongs:  dead center.  And so does his little book of essays just published by Mohr.

When he writes, for example, in his explanation of the identity of the tsaddiq of Isaiah 57:2, that

… not everything in these chapters can be derived from one source or only reduced to one formula only, but this prophetic legacy, announced at the end of Deutero-Isaiah (54:17), is clearly a prominent theme and provides an important element of continuity in the post-disaster Isaian corpus…

we are brought to the cusp of Blenkinsopp’s genius:  a careful, measured, thoughtful, and provocative eye for the details and ability to express his insights with clarity and brevity.  That ability is on display throughout these essays.  Students of Isaiah will be greatly assisted in their own studies if they will take the time and make the effort to read through what Professor Blenkinsopp has written.

Were We Ever Protestants? Essays in Honour of Tarald Rasmussen

This anthology discusses different aspects of Protestantism, past and present.

Professor Tarald Rasmussen has written both on medieval and modern theologians, but his primary interest has remained the reformation and 16th century church history. In stead of a traditional «Festschrift» honouring the different fields of research he has contributed to, this will be a focused anthology treating a specific theme related to Rasmussen’s research profile.

One of Professor Rasmussen’s most recent publications, a little popularized book in Norwegian titled «What is Protestantism?», reveals a central aspect research interest, namely the Weberian interest for Protestantism’s cultural significance. Despite difficulties, he finds the concept useful as a Weberian «Idealtypus» enabling research on a phenomenon combining theological, historical and sociological dimensions. Thus he employs the Protestantism as an integrative concept to trace the makeup of today’s secular societies.

This profiled approach is a point of departure for this anthology discussing important aspects of historiography in reformation history: Continuity and breaks surrounding the reformation, contemporary significance of reformation history research, traces of the reformation in today’s society.

The book relates to current discussions on Protestantism and is relevant to everyone who want to keep up to date with the latest research in the field.

Visitors to this link will find access to the table of contents and other front matter which will help them in deciding whether or not this is a volume they wish to read.  I think those interested in the Reformation will be drawn to the work.

As the table of contents is available above I won’t be repeating it here.  Instead, I will make a few observations about the book, which I found very interesting and informative, and I will point out a few problems with the book.

First, the observations:  the essays in this collection are a fitting celebration of the scholar herein honored.  Rasmussen is certainly the most accomplished of Reformation scholars from Scandinavia, and the work at hand centers its attention primarily on the outworking of the Reformation in those lands.  Particularly engaging, for me, were the essays by Leppin (who is a wonderful scholar), Jürgensen, and Kaufmann.

Jürgensen’s intriguing contribution featured a number of excellent photographs which properly illustrated his chief thesis, which is that art is the one place Protestants felt comfortable in retaining their Roman Catholic affinity for images and idols.  The cult of the Saints is alive and well in Protestantism, in other words, in artistic depictions – even if the cult was denounced in sermons and tractates.

And Kaufmann’s essay is simply superb.  His assertion that

The German ‘Protestant community’ itself has a chequered history of division and hatred.  The Lutheran and Reformed (Calvinist) parties required considerable time and effort to overcome doctrinal differences and reach a frosty unity based on perception of the common Catholic enemy.

is right on the mark.  And his demonstration of that truth in his contribution is thorough and intelligent.  He is, accordingly, also right to point out that

The Peace of Augsburg may therefore have established political and legal peace, but it did nothing to prevent – indeed promoted – the establishment of a bitter confessional split in the German nation which provided the framework for the development of an unparalleled level of inter-confessional rancor and uninhibited polemic.

And now, second, a few problems with the book.  The primary issue readers will have with the book is that there are a number of places where it is obvious that it has not been carefully examined by a native English speaker.   For instance,

on page 1 – ‘bin’ stands where the word should be ‘been’.

on page 4 – ‘Luther’s Catholic Intention and the Raise of Protest’ should be ‘Luther’s Catholic Intention and the Rise of Protest’.

on page 7 – ‘Making Luther Protesting’ should be ‘Making Luther Protestant’.

on page 11 – “Wider Hans Worst” should be ‘Wieder Hans Wurst’.

And finally (because I don’t want to list every grammatical error but simply illustrate their fairly common appearance), on page 11 the closing paragraph as a whole is oddly constructed (from an English point of view):

Was Luther ever a Prostestant?  Again: No, never.  How could he?  Luther wanted to be a Catholic, and he felt being a Catholic.  Sure, not a Roman Catholic, but he was neither a Lutheran nor a Protestant.  He was just: a Christian.

The wonderfully informative and engaging essays of this collection deserved a second go through linguistically.  The reading experience of this book is less pleasurable than it could be, and should be, simply because the various grammatical errors are jarring.   Reading the work is like driving down a lovely highway where the scenery out the windows of the car is simply enthralling and being jarred from the experience by a giant pothole that nearly shakes one from one’s seat.

I sincerely hope that should a second edition appear, it will be combed through by an English editor before it is printed.