Category Archives: Books

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

New at Brill- for you Church History peeps-

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

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

The good folk at Brill have provided a review copy and that review will post by the week’s end.

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

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


And this one


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


What Hath Rabbinic Literature to do With New Testament Interpretation?

Rabbinic Literature – A Rich Source for the Interpretation and Implementation of the Old and New Testaments, by Reinhard Neudecker

imagerenderThese selected essays have appeared over a period of two decades and have been revised for inclusion in this volume. They offer some insight into what has become over the years the author’s major fields of interest, namely: 1) Discovering the wealth that ancient Jewish writers drew from the Bible, much of which is still valid and greatly stimulating for modern readers of Scripture as well. 2) Discovering, especially in rabbinic texts that deal with religious experience and insight, ways in which the much-advocated interreligious dialogue is possible and how it can be fruitful.

Giannozzo Manetti’s New Testament

Giannozzo Manetti’s New Testament
95503Annet den Haan
ISBN: 978-90-04-32374-2
Series and Volume number: Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, Volume 257/1
List price EUR: 199 / List price US$: 239

In Giannozzo Manetti’s New Testament Annet den Haan analyses the Latin translation of the Greek New Testament made by the fifteenth-century humanist Giannozzo Manetti (1396-1459). The book includes the first edition of Manetti’s text.

Manetti’s translation was the first since Jerome’s Vulgate, and it predates Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum by half a century. Written at the Vatican court in the 1450s, it is a unique example of humanist philology applied to the sacred text in the pre-Reformation era. Den Haan argues that Manetti’s translation was influenced by Valla’s Annotationes, and compares Manetti’s translation method with his treatise on correct translation, Apologeticus (1458).

One of the benefits of reading widely in one’s field and related areas is that one can always learn very interesting facts about what is often portrayed as a fairly straight line of events in history.  For instance, the common supposition is that the poor Germans languished under the oppression of the Vulgate version of the Bible until Luther arrived and, out of the blue, without precedent, translated the Bible from Hebrew (with a lot of help) and Greek (with as much help from Melanchthon as without his help) into German for the first time.

Of course that simply isn’t what happened.  There were numerous translations of the Bible into German before Luther came on the scene.

The same is true in the area of ‘Bible translations’ in Latin.  Jerome may have been the most famous of the translators but he wasn’t the only one.  The present volume introduces us to Manetti’s translation of the New Testament.  Our author describes Manetti’s life, aims in translation, and significance.  He also provides an edition of Manetti’s Latin New Testament which is an authentic delight to read.  This is important because Manetti’s edition was never published and exists in only two manuscripts- one which is quite good and the other which is utter rubbish.

Manetti is probably barely known, which makes this volume even more important.  He was, it seems by all accounts, one of the most important intellectuals of his day.  Accordingly, we’re informed

The first purpose of this book is therefore to make Manetti’s translation accessible to Renaissance scholars (p. 2).

It is also quite useful for biblical scholars and textual critics.  A few pages later den Haan writes

… the so-called ‘Protestant Paradigm’, the common belief that before Luther, the ordinary man and woman could access the sacred text only through the mediation of the Church, which repressed lay book possession and did everything in its power to control religious culture. All this changed only with the Reformation, when the Bible was given back to the lay believer, who could now read and interpret the text for himself.

This belief in a breach with the Middle Ages was actively promoted by the Protestants themselves, and it is now deeply rooted in the collective memory of the Western world. In a recent study on the Bible in late-medieval England, Andrew Gow challenges the Protestant Paradigm. Gow complains of ‘whiggish’ historiography, arguing that the Church indeed imposed restrictions on lay Bible possession, but that there was hardly any (effective) repression, and that the average lay-reader had not more, but less freedom after Luther.  Similar studies for other regions and languages have appeared since (pp 3-4).

I cite this rather extensive section to show that it is not only Renaissance scholars who can learn a great deal from this work or text critics but students of the Reformation as well.

The contents of the volume are these:

  • Manetti’s Life and Works
  • Writing Process
  • Textual Criticism
  • Translation Theory from Antiquity to the Renaissance
  • Apologeticus
  • Translation Method
  • The New Testament Translation of Manetti

A sample of den Haan’s method may be useful to potential readers of the volume.  So, whilst discussing Manetti’s translation method den Haan writes

His main reason for dismissing the ad verbum method is that it compromises the meaning of the original. This happens because the meaning of idiomatic expressions is determined by the way they are used, not by the meaning of the words they consist of.

The clearest example of such an expression in the New Testament is the Greek ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχω [‘to be pregnant’], which literally means ‘to have in the belly’. In the Vulgate, it is rendered by in utero habeo. Valla commented on this unidiomatic translation at Matthew 1:18 and 1:23, and at 1 Thessalonians 5:3.20 Manetti translated it as pregnans [‘pregnant’] at Matthew 1:18, concipio [‘to conceive’] at Matthew 1:23, and parturio [‘to be in labour’] at 1 Thessalonians 5:3. He preserved the unidiomatic in utero habeo at Revelation 12:2. Similary, at 1 John 2:27, he replaced et non necesse habetis [‘you do not need’] with et non est uobis opus, a less literal translation of the Greek οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε.

This volume is an extraordinary accomplishment.  Readers learn so very much about Manetti and the practice of translation, and the Latin edition of  Manetti of the New Testament is a most welcome addition to the library of every New Testament scholar.


christosisAmid increasing interaction between Eastern and Western theologians, several recent biblical interpreters have characterized Paul’s soteriology as theosis, or deification, harking back to patristic interpretations of Paul. In this book Ben C. Blackwell critically evaluates that interpretation as he explores the anthropological dimension of Paul’s soteriology.

Blackwell first examines two major Greek patristic interpreters of Paul — Irenaeus and Cyril of Alexandria — to clarify what deification entails and to determine which Pauline texts they used to support their soteriological constructions. The book then focuses on Paul’s soteriology expressed in Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians 3-5 (with excursuses on other passages) and explores how believers embody Christ’s death and life, his suffering and glory, through the Spirit. Blackwell concludes by comparing the patristic view of deification with Paul’s soteriology arising from the biblical texts, noting both substantial overlap and key differences.

Eerdmans have sent a review copy.  Unfortunately, try as I might, I cannot truly recommend this volume for one overwhelming methodological reason: the author, after ‘setting the stage’ in his first chapter (in which he divulges the history of research of the question which occupies him; i.e., deification) moves not to investigate Paul’s understanding of the deification of Christ but rather how a few of the Church Fathers understood Paul’s understanding of deification.  He, naturally, has his reasons for doing so and he spends a good amount of time telling us why he’s following a sensible and coherent methodology to do it.  But he fails to convince.

The subtitle of the volume would lead potential readers to believe that the topic will be examined by first carefully ‘engaging Paul’s soteriology’ and only then, once that’s been done, ‘with his Patristic Interpreters’.  In point of fact, the subtitle more properly should be ‘Examining Paul’s Soteriology Primarily through the Lens of Irenaeus and Cyril of Alexandria’.

The volume’s error lies in the belief that Irenaeus and Cyril got Paul right.  Perhaps they did, or perhaps they didn’t, but in point of methodological fact one really has to give pride of place to Paul’s own works and only then turn to the Fathers to see how they have understood him rather than the other way around.

Mind you, Blackwell is a good, a very good writer.  Unpleasant as it is to admit, his writing lacks the power to persuade simply and primarily because the foundation of his argument is the roof of the structure.  In short, he has everything exactly turned on its head.

To his credit, he has persuaded at least a few notables of the rightness of his cause.  John Barclay literally glows in his praise of the work in his really informative Foreword.  But he also, intentionally or not, points out the premier flaw of the volume in the very first sentence of his effervescent look ahead:

Blackwell’s Christosis is a bold and highly successful experiment in the effort to read Paul not only with, but even through, his patristic interpreters (p. xvi).

Barclay’s right, it is bold and it is an experiment and it is an effort to read Paul through the lens of his patristic interpreters.  And that’s why it just doesn’t work as an examination of Paul’s thought.  The deck is stacked.  The outcome is predetermined.

To be sure, ‘Reception History’ is an amazingly fruitful field of investigation and this volume is precisely that.  But when reception history is the focus and the exposition of a theologian like Paul’s thought is seen through its eyeballs, then we don’t hear Paul.  We hear people talking about Paul.  It’s as though we’ve returned to 1919 and Karl Barth’s really idosyncratic reading of Romans where we get all Barth and no Paul.  It’s as if we have moved back in time to eisegetical impulses where the biblical authors are ignored and their words only used as springboards for the thought of the present ‘interpreter’.  Eisegesis, it seems, has returned and taken the field of battle in a coup against more reasonable methodological approaches.

Accordingly, Blackwell’s approach will please many.  It just didn’t and doesn’t me.  And when Blackwell does finally get around to talking about Paul (in chapter 5, 117 pages in), the well is already tainted.  The case is already closed.  Paul now serves as mere window dressing for the readings of Paul already predetermined by Irenaeus and Cyril.  Irenaeus and Cyril have told us what Paul thought and Paul has been, in essence, shouted down by them.

Finally, one last annoyance reared its ugly head at the end of the volume where Blackwell assembled his bibliographic material.  Under the first heading he lists what he calls ‘Primary Sources’ and then every item listed under this category is not a primary source but a translation in either English or French of ancient Greek and Latin sources.  Primary sources are sources in the language of the theologian or historian who wrote the material.  Translations are never, ever primary sources they are always and forever secondary sources.  If one called the Bible in English a primary source one would be wrong.  One is also wrong to call a translation of any of the Church Fathers a primary source too.

Luther once took a book Melanchthon had written and had it published without the latter’s permission.  In commending it to readers, Luther wrote

For this book itself will boast that Philip is truthful and wise, unless Christ whom he breathes and teaches is not the Truth and Wisdom. For he himself may choose to be, and be called, a fool along with Christ. And would that we, too, were such fools along with them, so that we might boast: “The foolishness of God is wiser than men” [1 Cor. 1:25].

I wish with all my heart that I could write the same sort of thing of Blackwell’s book that Luther wrote in that first line of Melanchthon’s.   Alas…

Our Book is Now Available!

9780567670595James Crossley and myself have edited a volume and today it became available for ordering.  So do.  It’s a fantastic collection of essays by a gang of gifted scholars:

  • Introduction: Keith Whitelam in Context – James Crossley, St Mary’s University, Twickenham, UK and Jim West, formerly of Quartz Hill School of Theology, USA, presently at Ming Hua Theological College, Hong Kong
  • 1. Maximalist and/or Minimalist Approaches in Recent Representations of Ancient Israelite and Judaean History – Ingrid Hjelm, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 2. The Emergence of Israel Again – Robert B. Coote, San Francisco Theological Seminary, USA
  • 3. A Plea for an Historical Anthropology of Ancient Palestine – Emanuel Pfoh, National University of La Plata, Argentina
  • 4. Mapping Palestine – Philip R. Davies, University of Sheffield, UK
  • 5. A Sectarian Group Called Israel: Historiography and Cultural Memory – Niels Peter Lemche, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 6. The History of Israel – Without the Bible: A Thought Experiment – Jim West, Quartz Hill School of Theology, USA
  • 7. The Present Crisis in Biblical Scholarship – John Van Seters, University of North Carolina, USA
  • 8. The Perpetuation of Racial Assumptions in Biblical Studies – Deane Galbraith, University of Otago, New Zealand
  • 9. Made in Sheffield – David J.A. Clines, The University of Sheffield, UK
  • 10. God and the State: The Bible and David Cameron’s Authority – James Crossley, St Mary’s University, UK
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Cities of the Reformation

9783290178833Zürich heute – hier wohnen und arbeiten Menschen aus aller Welt. Zürich, vor 500 Jahren – zwar viel kleiner, aber ebenso lebendig. Die Menschen leiden unter den Abgaben an Kirchen und Klöster, das Söldnerwesen bringt Reichtum und Dekadenz. Da wendet sich Ulrich Zwingli, ein junger Leutpriester, gegen soziale Missstände – und Kirche und Staat gestalten gemeinsam eine neue Ordnung.

Das reich bebilderte Journal zeigt Zürich als Schauplatz dieser Umwälzungen. Es nimmt uns mit auf einen Rundgang zu den wichtigen Stätten der Reformation: ins Grossmüster, in dem Zwingli 1519 erstmals predigt, zum Rathaus, wo die Zürcher Disputationen stattfinden, an die Schipfe, dem Schauplatz der Täuferverfolgung. Eine Szenenfolge Hans Strubs versetzt uns ins Haus des Buchdruckers Froschauer, in dem in der Fastenzeit 1522 die berühmt gewordenen Würste gegessen werden, eine Geschichte Ulrich Knellwolfs an den Stadelhofen, wo 1523 ein Schuhmacher eigenhändig das Kreuz mit dem Heiland umhaut – was ihn den Kopf kostet. Das Heft erzählt in Bildern, Geschichten und Szenen von den historischen Entwicklungen der Reformation, stellt aber auch die heutigen Kirchen der Stadt und die anstehenden Aufgaben der Zürcher Kirche vor.

Mit Beiträgen von Renate von Ballmoos, Jürg Dambach, Dorothee Degen, Judith Engeler, Ueli Greminger, Rebecca Giselbrecht, Irene Gysel, Markus Keller, Alexandra Kess, Ulrich Knellwolf, Käthi Koenig-Siegrist, Daniel Klingenberg, Käthi La Roche, Peter Opitz, Niklaus Peter, Felix Reich, Martin Rüsch, Christoph Sigrist, Hans Strub, Cornelia Vogelsanger, Elisabeth Wyss-Jenny, Hans Conrad Zander.
Mit Illustrationen von Daniel Lienhard.

Peter Opitz, Dr. theol., Jahrgang 1957, ist Professor für Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte von der Reformation bis zur Gegenwart an der Theologischen Fakultät der Universität Zürich und Leiter des Instituts für Schweizerische Reformationsgeschichte.

Käthi Koenig-Siegrist, Jahrgang 1950, Theologin und Redaktorin, war in der Zürcher Redaktion von «reformiert.» und davor Chefredaktorin des evang.Wochenmagazins «doppelpunkt».