Category Archives: Books

Get a Free e-Book From Brill This Week

It’s Academic Book Week!

As a gift to all interested in Academic Publishing, Brill has opened up some of its related content for free. For a list of all the eBooks that are freely available, go to

Only during Academic Book Week, from Monday 23 – Saturday 28 January 2017. Enjoy!

Some of the titles are relevant to biblical scholars and church historians.

Studies in the Making of the Early Hebrew Book

Augustine beyond the BookIntermediality, Transmediality and Reception

The Kabbalistic Scholar of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible

Early Christian ManuscriptsExamples of Applied Method and Approach


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Posted by on 23/01/2017 in Books


Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?

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

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

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

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


Christianity, Book-Burning and Censorship in Late Antiquity

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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Posted by on 19/01/2017 in Book Review, Books


Christoph Heilig’s New Book “Paul’s Triumph”

16105708_10211682316792334_87259772017656849_nPaul’s metaphorical language in Second Corinthians 2:14 has troubled exegetes for a long time. Does the verb ‘thriambeuein’ indicate that Paul imagines himself as being led to execution in the Roman triumphal procession? Or is, by contrast, the victory in view that the apostles receive themselves? Maybe the Roman ritual does not constitute the background of this metaphor at all? Clarity with regard to these questions is a pressing issue in Pauline studies, given the fact that this metaphor introduces a central passage in the Pauline corpus that is of crucial importance for reconstructing the apostle’s self-understanding. Heilig demonstrates that, if all the relevant data are taken into account, a coherent interpretation of Paul’s statement is possible indeed. Moreover, Heilig brings the resulting meaning of Paul’s statement into dialogue with the political discourse of the time, thus presenting a detailed argument for the complex critical interaction of Paul with the ideology of the Roman Empire.

Go to the link for the table of contents and other stuff.  I haven’t read it so I can’t recommend (or discommend for that matter) it, so you’re on your own (though it does look fun).

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Posted by on 18/01/2017 in Books


Melanchthon und die Reformierte Tradition

New from  V&R

9783525550311Andreas J. Beck versammelt die Beiträge der internationalen wissenschaftlichen Tagung »Melanchthon und die Reformierte Tradition«, die vom 10.-12. November 2010 in Emden stattfand. Die Tagung wurde anlässlich Melanchthons 450. Todesjahres von der Johannes a Lasco Bibliothek Emden in Kooperation mit der Evangelisch-Theologischen Fakultät Leuven und der Europäischen Melanchthonakademie Bretten organisiert.

Die einzelnen Beiträge stammen von Forschern aus Deutschland, den Niederlanden, Belgien, Frankreich, England und Ungarn und dokumentieren den bisher kaum erforschten, großen Einfluss Philip Melanchthons auf die reformierte Tradition. Einige Beiträge erörtern spezifische theologische Fragen, wie etwa das Verhältnis von Wort und Geist oder Freiheit und Wille bei Melanchthon. Andere Beiträge stellen größere Bezüge her, etwa zwischen Melanchthon und der reformierten Frömmigkeit oder der reformierten Scholastik. Außerdem thematisieren Beiträge Melanchthons Einfluss in Deutschland, der Schweiz, Frankreich, den Niederlanden und Ungarn thematisiert. Einige Beiträge zur Rezeption Melanchthons in der reformierten Tradition des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts und ein Rückblick auf das Melanchthon-Gedenkjahr 2010 runden das Bild ab.

Die beträchtliche Bedeutung Melanchthons für die reformierte Theologie, Frömmigkeit und Bildung zeigt sich nun deutlicher als in der bisherigen Forschung und stellt zugleich die einseitige Assoziation der reformierten Tradition mit Calvin in Frage. Melanchthon wirkte international über sein ausgedehntes Netzwerk mit Gelehrten und kirchlichen Leitern, seine Bildungs- und Universitätsreformen, seinen Schüler und sein überaus vielseitiges Schrifttum; er war der Lehrer Europas (Praeceptor Europae), nicht nur der Lehrer Deutschlands (Praecepter Germaniae).

The volume’s collected essays examine numerous aspects of Melanchthon’s life and world, as the table of contents illustrates quite clearly:

  • Günter Frank, Das Melanchthon-Gedenkjahr 2010
  • Andreas Mühling, Melanchthon und die Zürcher Theologen
  • Machiel A van den Berg, The Apocalyptic Melanchthon
  • Antonie Vos, Philip Melanchthon on Freedom and Will
  • Henk van den Belt, Word and Spirit in Melanchthon’s Loci Communes: Searching for the Relationship between the External and the Internal
  • Kees de Groot, Die Homiletik Melanchthons
  • Martin H. Jung, Melanchthon und die reformierte Frömmigkeit
  • Andreas J. Beck, Melanchthon und die reformierte Scholastik
  • Anthony Milton, A Tale of Two Melanchthons: Melanchthon and English Protestantism 1560–1660
  • András Szabó, Melanchthon und die Schule in Sárospatak im 16. Jahrhundert
  • Nicola Stricker, Melanchthon und die reformierte Tradition in Frankreich
  • Frank van der Pol, A Seventeenth Century Reformed-Pietistic Portrait of Melanchthon from the Netherlands
  • Johannes Hund, Norm oder Geist: Die reformierte Debatte zum Augustana-Jubiläum von 1830
  • Matthias Freudenberg, Melanchthon im Kontext der reformierten Tradition der Neuzeit

Each essay is by an expert Melanchthon-ist and the expertise of each contributor is completely clearly on display in their respective essays.  Several are, obviously, in English and many are in German.  Similarly on display is Melanchthon’s own wide ranging interests and engagements; from his magisterial theology in the Loci to his dabblings in Apocalyptic through his interactions with the Zurich theologians and extending to his impact on the church across Europe.  Melanchthon’s reach surpassed Luther’s and nearly rivaled Bullinger’s himself.  The collection’s editor writes of the volume:

In diesen Beiträgen zeigt sich die beträchtliche Bedeutung Melanchthons für die reformierte Theologie, Frömmigkeit und Bildung nun noch deutlicher als bisher. Dadurch wird zugleich die einseitige Assoziation der reformierten Tradition mit Calvin in Frage gestellt. Auch in der reformierten Tradition wirkte Melanchthon international über sein ausgedehntes Netzwerk mit Gelehrten und kirchlichen Leitern, seine Bildungs- und Universitätsreformen, seine Schüler und sein überaus vielseitiges Schrifttum. Melanchthon war „Praeceptor Europae“, nicht nur „Germaniae“, was auch die während der Tagung vom Brettener Oberbürgermeister Marius Wolff eröffnete Wanderausstellung „Melanchthon – Grenzen überwinden“ in der Johannes a Lasco Bibliothek bestätigte.

Frank’s opening essay perfectly sets the stage for the conference at which it was delivered and for the volume presently under consideration.  Therein he describes the historical Melanchthon and his impact on theology, ecumenism, and philosophy.  As each essay which follows the opening unfurls they each, in their own way, touch on some significant aspect of Melanchthon’s historical, ecumenical, theological, or philosophical impact.

Particularly enlightening is van den Berg’s essay on Melanchthon’s apocalypticism.  As he notes

The sixteenth century reformer Philipp Melanchthon would never have thought that some day in the future – somewhere in the North of his beloved Germany, of which he is called the Praeceptor – reformation scholars would come together to commemorate his contribution to the reformed tradition, 450 years after he “escaped” from the rabies theologorum to enter the eternal glory he so eagerly had hoped for. Although his expectation of the second coming of Christ was not that imminent, as it seemed to be for his spiritual father and guide Martin Luther, he also believed that time was short for the end of history. In his calculation of the years, according to the prophecy of Daniel, it would be around the year 2000 at the latest; but if it pleased the Lord to shorten the times it could also happen much earlier. However, he was convinced that the history of this world was nearing its end.

Each essayist, again, expands our understanding of Melanchthon’s thought and influence and for each of the contributions scholars and students have ample reason for gratitude.  This is a valuable collection and those with an interest in the subject will enjoy it very much indeed.

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Posted by on 18/01/2017 in Books, Church History, Melanchthon


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

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

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

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

TVZ has graciously sent a copy for review.  More anon.

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Posted by on 17/01/2017 in Book Review, Books, Church History, TVZ


Two New Volumes From Ellert & Richter Verlag on Luther

Matthias Gretzschel
Martin Luther
His Life and Places of Work

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by on 13/01/2017 in Book Review, Books, Luther