Category Archives: Brill

Another Portrait of Calvin I’ve Never Seen Before

From the newly published volume by Brill.  This is a very interesting portrait in that not many of Calvin as a very young man seem to exist.

Mighty Baal: Essays in Honor of Mark S. Smith

And very much deserved indeed!

Mighty Baal: Essays in Honor of Mark S. Smith is the first edited collection devoted to the study of the ancient Near Eastern god Baal. Although the Bible depicts Baal as powerless, the combined archaeological, iconographic, and literary evidence makes it clear that Baal was worshipped throughout the Levant as a god whose powers rivalled any deity. Mighty Baal brings together eleven essays written by scholars working in North America, Europe, and Israel. Essays in part one focus on the main collection of Ugaritic tablets describing Baal’s exploits, the Baal Cycle. Essays in part two treat Baal’s relationships to other deities. Together, the essays offer a rich portrait of Baal and his cult from a variety of methodological perspectives.

Mark is the go to guy for all things Baal, and one of the nicest people you will ever meet at SBL or CBA.

Congratulations, Mark.  I can’t think of anyone more deserving.

A review copy arrived today.

A Companion to the Reformation in Geneva

A Companion to the Reformation in Geneva describes the course of the Protestant Reformation in the city of Geneva from the 16th to the 18th centuries. It seeks to explore the beginnings of reform in the city, the struggles the reformers encountered when seeking to teach, minister to, educate, and discipline the inhabitants of Geneva, and the methods employed to overcome these obstacles. It examines Geneva’s relations with nearby cities and how Geneva handled the influx of immigrants from France. The volume focuses on the most significant aspects of life in the city, examines major theological and liturgical subjects associated with the Genevan Reformation, and describes the political, social, and cultural consequences of the Reformation for Geneva. 

Contributors include Jon Balserak, Sara Beam, Erik de Boer, Michael Bruening, Mathieu Caesar, Jill Fehlieson, Emanuele Fiume, Hervé Genton, Anja Silvia Goeing, Christian Grosse, Scott Manetsch, Elsie McKee, Graeme Murdock, William G. Naphy, Peter Opitz, Jennifer Powell McNutt, Jameson Tucker, Theodore G. Van Raalte, and Jeffrey R. Watt. 

Any volume edited by Jon Balsarek is a volume worth reading.

Living under the Evil Pope

In Living under the Evil Pope, Martina Mampieri presents the Hebrew Chronicle of Pope Paul IV, written in the second half of the sixteenth century by the Italian Jewish moneylender Benjamin Neḥemiah ben Elnathan (alias Guglielmo di Diodato) from Civitanova Marche. The text remained in manuscript for about four centuries until the Galician scholar Isaiah Sonne (1887-1960) published a Hebrew annotated edition of the chronicle in the 1930s. This remarkable source offers an account of the events of the Papal States during Paul IV’s pontificate (1555-59). Making use of broad archival materials, Martina Mampieri reflects on the nature of this work, its historical background, and contents, providing a revised edition of the Hebrew text as well as the first unabridged English translation and commentary.

The present volume is a study of a document written during a period of the history of the Church when Jews were treated with disregard for their dignity and their humanity.  As such, it probes the darker corners of Christianity and exposes the lengths to which the Church has gone to suppress and oppress.

It is, in other words, an expose of one of the worst periods of human history.

Our author’s work is divided into three parts.  The first two set the historical stage for the third, which is a translation of the Hebrew text of Benjamin Nehemiah ben Elnathan’s  Chronicle of Pope Paul IV.  That translation appears on facing pages; i.e., with the Hebrew text on one side of the open volume and the English rendition on the facing page.  This facilitates in a fantastic way the ease with which interested students of the text can assess the translation from the original.

In what follows I want to excerpt rather a fair bit, more than usual in fact, from the book.  The reason for this will become clear in due course.

The Chronicle of Pope Paul IV, Known as the Theatine written by the Jewish moneylender Benjamin Ne.emiah ben Elnathan from Civitanova Marche is also a narrative of the conflictual coexistence of Jews and Christians.  …  The pontificate of Gian Pietro Carafa (1476–1559) – co-founder of the Theatine order, archbishop of Naples, grand-inquisitor of the Roman Inquisition, tireless supporter of the intransigent faction against the spread of Lutheran ideas and heretical movements in Italy, and finally pope of the Catholic Church with the name of Paul IV (1555–59) – was harsh for both Jews and Christians.

The historical narrative that follows is both enlightening and saddening.  Christian indecency vis-à-vis the Jews springs into full view and those familiar with such matters learn more about their horrifying effects for all involved.  And those unfamiliar with such things will hopefully learn the horrors held in the past so as never to allow them to be repeated again in the future.

The author spells out the process to be followed thusly:

Divided into eight chapters, the work presents the sequence of events that occurred during Paul IV’s pontificate (1555–59), from the issue of the bull Cum nimis absurdum – which marked a turning point into the history of Jewish – Christian relations – to the pope’s death, touching upon the first years of Pius IV’s pontificate. General history is combined with the more personal story of the author, who was arrested towards the end of Paul IV’s pontificate along with other five Jews from Civitanova and taken to Rome to be imprisoned at Ripetta and judged by the Roman Inquisition.

And

Beginning from the English translation and analysis of the Hebrew Chronicle of Pope Paul IV, Known as the Theatine, a closer investigation of selected archival sources has allowed us not only to shed some light on aspects which have been unclear up until now, but also to open up new unexpected scenarios. The portrait that emerges from the reconstruction of the Jewish experience in sixteenth-century Civitanova is that of a well-established group, playing an important role in the dense networks of social and economic relations, exchanges, and interactions within the broader framework of the majority Christian society.

And that is exactly what happens.  Windows are opened and light is let in.

At this juncture I want to offer a snippet of the text itself, to give a flavor of the 16th century author’s writing style and wit:

In that time in Civitanova, there was an evil man – a devil, a bastard, an oppressor and a persecutor – called Aharon ben Menahem: may his name be blotted out! He was a flattering man, but he committed evil deeds. When he saw Israel’s disaster, his heart could not handle the attempt, and to suffer the rod of discipline, he converted to Christianity, became apostate, and changed his name to Giovan Battista. He became a stumbling block and obstacle to the Jews of Civitanova, because in the first days of his conversion, he made himself seem like a man who loved the people of Israel, until some of the Gentiles believed him; but his heart was full of abominations, and then he became an enemy of the Jews, and day by day, his damnation became greater and greater: he injured them with his speech. He was an evil man and an enemy like Haman, who used his speech in a deceitful manner.

Readers of this work will not only enjoy the historical research which underpins it, they will enjoy the tremendous translation of the fascinating text at hand.  It is simultaneously amazing and depressing.  But it is thoroughly indispensible.

Johann Jakob Wettstein’s Principles for New Testament Textual Criticism

In Johann Jakob Wettstein’s Principles for New Testament Textual Criticism Silvia Castelli investigates the genesis, development, and legacy of Wettstein’s criteria for evaluating New Testament variant readings. Wettstein’s guidelines, the Animadversiones et cautiones, are the first well-organized essay on New Testament text-critical methodology, first published in the Prolegomena to his New Testament in 1730 and republished with some changes in 1752. In his essay, Wettstein presents a new text-critical method based on the manuscripts’ evidence and on the critic’s judgment. Moving away from the authority invested in established printed editions, Wettstein’s methodology thus effectively promotes and enhances intellectual freedom. The second part of this volume offers a critical text and an annotated English translation of Wettstein’s text-critical principles.

Brill have graciously provided a review copy.

This revised dissertation was originally submitted to the Free University of Amsterdam in 2019, so it was improved and corrected in good time in order to be published in 2020.  The table of contents is at the link above.  Readers of this review and potential readers of the book should be sure to look at it.  It is intricate and detailed.

The purpose and goal of the present work is to, in brief, analyze Wettstein’s methodology and reception.  Or, as the author puts it

Wettstein’s sound advice and thoughtful approach, although widely acknowledged both in New Testament and classical scholarship, have never been analyzed thoroughly and systematically.

This book does that.  And then it provides an edition and translation of Wettstein’s Animadversiones, in Latin and English, on facing pages.  This is, then, two volumes in one.  First, the author’s extremely detailed analysis and second the author’s translation of Wettstein’s extremely important and historically significant text critical work.

Castelli is of the opinion that this work matters because

During the time of this investigation, I repeatedly noticed that historical investigations into text-critical methodology have often been overlooked in New Testament textual criticism.

Anyone who has read the standard text critical introductions can attest to that fact.  So the investigation begins by offering the overarching goal of the program:

… the research question of the present investigation is the following: what was Wettstein’s contribution to the history of text critical methodology in the early eighteenth century, and what is the legacy of his principles?

Naturally the question potential readers will be asking is, did Castelli do what was intended?  And I have to answer in the affirmative.  The meticulous care with which Castelli proceeds, the detail, the patient explanation, all add up to a scholarly work suitable for the most detail oriented textual critic and historian of texts.

One of the things that stands out in the work is the description of the principles by which Wettstein operated.  Castelli opines, after listing the 19 principles enunciated by Wettstein:

Wettstein did not openly group his principles. However, the first six principles are essential guidelines for textual criticism; principles vii–xii encompass the internal criteria; xiii–xv the relevance of indirect tradition; xvii–xviii the external criteria; finally, the last criterion goes back to a basic principle: the fact that a reading which is different from the received one can be accepted also in a doubtful case.

Organizing Wettstein’s principles into useful categories is nothing short of a very generous act of assistance to other scholars.  And some of those principles are genuinely genius.  For instance

Printed Editions Are Not Authoritative

According to Wettstein’s third principle, printed editions are not authoritative. That was a bold statement in the first half of the eighteenth century. So much so that a century later, in his 1831 groundbreaking New Testament, Karl Lachmann would reiterate the same rule, phrasing it as: “no consideration should be given to the received reading.

After around 300 pages of careful argumentation, Castelli then, as described above, provides a bilingual copy of the Animadversiones.  But before doing so introduces the text and the methodology of its translation and notation.

This document, the Animadversiones, is worth reading simply for its engaging style and Wettstein’s very fine prose.

The book includes a color plate of a handwritten page of Wettstein’s and it concludes with a Bibliography, Index of Ancient Authors, Index of Modern Authors, Index of Manuscripts, Index of Sources, and finally, an Index of Subjects.

Below is, for the reader’s information, a paragraph from the Animadversiones, simply so the person considering reading the volume has some idea of its style:

xii. Between two variant readings the one that appears more orthodox is not automatically to be preferred to the other.

I call that reading the “more orthodox reading” through which a certain dogma—controversial among Christians and commonly received in those regions where the reader lives—is judged to be confirmed. I consider “less orthodox reading” to be certainly not that which is manifestly erroneous and heretic—who would recommend such a reading?—but the one that favours neither side, and confirms the meaning that both agrees with all the other passages of Scripture and is admitted by all Christians. I am of the opinion that in a dubious case the latter reading is to be preferred to the former one.

Do read this volume.  You will learn a great deal.  And you will enjoy the experience.

Cultural Shifts and Ritual Transformations in Reformation Europe

This volume honors the work of a scholar who has been active in the field of early modern history for over four decades. In that time, Susan Karant-Nunn’s work challenged established orthodoxies, pushed the envelope of historical genres, and opened up new avenues of research and understanding, which came to define the contours of the field itself. Like this rich career, the chapters in this volume cover a broad range of historical genres from social, cultural and art history, to the history of gender, masculinity, and emotion, and range geographically from the Holy Roman Empire, France, and the Netherlands, to Geneva and Austria. Based on a vast array of archival and secondary sources, the contributions open up new horizons of research and commentary on all aspects of early modern life.

Contributors: James Blakeley, Robert J. Christman, Victoria Christman, Amy Nelson Burnett, Pia Cuneo, Ute Lotz-Heumann, Amy Newhouse, Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer, Helmut Puff, Lyndal Roper, Karen E. Spierling, James D. Tracy, Mara R. Wade, David Whitford, and Charles Zika.

It sounds fantastic.  The link above has the TOC.

Prophets, Priests, and Promises: Essays on the Deuteronomistic History, Chronicles, and Ezra-Nehemiah

This collection of essays is forthcoming-

Shortly before his untimely death Gary Knoppers prepared a number of articles on the historical books in the Hebrew Bible for this volume. Many had not previously been published and the others were heavily revised. They combine a fine attention to historical method with sensitivity for literary-critical analysis, constructive use of classical as well as other sources for comparative evidence, and wide-ranging attention to economic, social, religious, and political circumstances relating in particular to the Persian and early Hellenistic periods. Knoppers advances many new suggestions about significant themes in these texts, about how they relate one to another, and about the light they shed on the various communities’ self-consciousness at a time when new religious identities were being forged.

Violence in the Hebrew Bible

In Violence in the Hebrew Bible scholars reflect on texts of violence in the Hebrew Bible, as well as their often problematic reception history. Authoritative texts and traditions can be rewritten and adapted to new circumstances and insights. Texts are subject to a process of change. The study of the ways in which these (authoritative) biblical texts are produced and/or received in various socio-historical circumstances discloses a range of theological and ideological perspectives. In reflecting on these issues, the central question is how to allow for a given text’s plurality of possible and realised meanings while also retaining the ability to form critical judgments regarding biblical exegesis. This volume highlight that violence in particular is a fruitful area to explore this tension.

Johann Jakob Wettstein’s Principles for New Testament Textual Criticism: A Fight for Scholarly Freedom

In Johann Jakob Wettstein’s Principles for New Testament Textual Criticism Silvia Castelli investigates the genesis, development, and legacy of Wettstein’s criteria for evaluating New Testament variant readings. Wettstein’s guidelines, the Animadversiones et cautiones, are the first well-organized essay on New Testament text-critical methodology, first published in the Prolegomena to his New Testament in 1730 and republished with some changes in 1752. In his essay, Wettstein presents a new text-critical method based on the manuscripts’ evidence and on the critic’s judgment. Moving away from the authority invested in established printed editions, Wettstein’s methodology thus effectively promotes and enhances intellectual freedom. The second part of this volume offers a critical text and an annotated English translation of Wettstein’s text-critical principles.

Coming this Fall.

Prophets, Priests, and Promises: Essays on the Deuteronomistic History, Chronicles, and Ezra-Nehemiah

Coming early next year:

Shortly before his untimely death Gary Knoppers prepared a number of articles on the historical books in the Hebrew Bible for this volume. Many had not previously been published and the others were heavily revised. They combine a fine attention to historical method with sensitivity for literary-critical analysis, constructive use of classical as well as other sources for comparative evidence, and wide-ranging attention to economic, social, religious, and political circumstances relating in particular to the Persian and early Hellenistic periods. Knoppers advances many new suggestions about significant themes in these texts, about how they relate one to another, and about the light they shed on the various communities’ self-consciousness at a time when new religious identities were being forged.

Jeremiah 52 in the Context of the Book of Jeremiah

In Jeremiah 52 in the Context of the Book of Jeremiah, Henk de Waard offers a thorough examination of the final chapter of the book of Jeremiah. Particular attention is paid to the chapter’s relationship with the parallel text in 2 Kings 24:18–25:30, to the differences between the Masoretic text and the Old Greek translation, to the literary function of Jeremiah 52 within the book of Jeremiah, and to the chapter’s historical context.
De Waard shows that, especially in the early text form represented by the Old Greek, Jeremiah 52 is not a mere appendix to the book, but a golah-oriented epilogue, indicating the contrasting destinies of pre-exilic Judah and the exilic community in Babylon.

Isaiah: Septuagint Commentary Series

This work consists of an introduction, transcription, translation, and commentary to the Greek translation of Isaiah in the Codex Sinaiticus. It comments on the Greek language in its context, especially on how the Greek language is stretched beyond its normal range of function. It addresses the peculiarities of Codex Sinaiticus, including its history, scribes, divisions, and orthography. In line with the aims of the Brill Septuagint Commentary Series, it mainly discusses not how the text was produced, but how it was read.

Congratulations to Ken Penner.

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.

New From Brill, Free in Open Access

Vision, Narrative, and Wisdom in the Aramaic Texts from Qumran:

Essays from the Copenhagen Symposium, 14-15 August, 2017

The Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran have attracted increasing interest in recent years. These texts predate the “sectarian” Dead Sea scrolls, and they are contemporary with the youngest parts of the Hebrew Bible. They offer a unique glimpse into the situation before the biblical canons were closed. Their highly creative Jewish authors reshaped and rewrote biblical traditions to cope with the concerns of their own time. The essays in this volume examine this fascinating ancient literature from a variety of different perspectives. The book grew out of an international symposium held at the University of Copenhagen in August 2017.

2 Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter: Towards a New Perspective

Published by Brill

In the 2016 Radboud Prestige Lectures, published in this volume, Jörg Frey develops a new perspective on 2 Peter by arguing that the letter is dependent on the Apocalypse of Peter. Frey argues that reading 2 Peter against the backdrop of the Apocalypse of Peter sheds new light on many longstanding interpretative questions and offers fresh insights into the history of second-century Christianity. Frey’s lectures are followed by responses from leading scholars in the field, who discuss Frey’s proposal in ways both critical and constructive. Contributors include: Richard Bauckham, Jan Bremmer, Terrance Callan, Paul Foster, Jeremy Hultin, Tobias Nicklas, David Nienhuis and Martin Ruf.

If ever there were a theory that hung by a strand of spider web, it is the one proffered by Frey in this volume and in his earlier Commentary on 2 Peter and Jude.  The notion that somehow or other, 2 Peter is reliant upon the Apocalypse of Peter beggers credulity.  That isn’t to suggest that Frey doesn’t try awfully mightily to make it so.  But he cannot.  It simply is not a sensible theory and that, I suspect, is why only a small handful of people hold to it.

The present volume is a wonderful resource for study into the entire question.  Frey sets the agenda with his defensive essay which opens the book and then his like-minded friends muster their arguments for agreeing with Frey.  Accordingly, the contributions of Bremmer, Nicklas, and Callan (who curiously also asserts that Josephus is also somehow a source of 2 Peter), Nienhuis, and Hultin are all in basic agreement with Frey with varying degrees of separation.  The deck, then, is stacked.

Ruf, then

… questions Frey’s (and Grünstäudl’s) account of the literary connection between 2 Peter and the Apocalypse. Ruf is skeptical about the possibility of determining any kind of direct literary connection. In Ruf’s estimation there is a relationship between the two documents, but it is difficult to be more specific than to say that they are engaging in, and contributing to, the same “discourse.”

Foster and Bauckham too are skeptical (to say the least) concerning Frey’s notion of dependence.

Frey gets the last word, of course, and asserts – in quite a friendly manner – the superiority of his point of view in spite of the doubts of three of his interlocutors.

The best argued essay, in my estimation, is that of Ruf.  Towards the end of his essay he observes, quite sagely

Wolfgang Grünstäudl and Jörg Frey highlight the ideas Second Peter shares with Eastern, and particularly Egyptian, literature, while they pay less attention to its western contacts than Bauckham did. Future research will have to ponder both ‘directions’ of literary contacts and find a balance. A thorough methodological, or, rather, criteriological reflection on the categories of literary contacts and their relevance for the determination of the place of origin would be highly desirable.

And that, I think, is the crux of the issue.  It is the old old wondering after which came first, the chicken or the egg.  Frey asserts that the chicken (Apocalypse of Peter) came first and the egg (2 Peter) only later.  But how can he prove this?  And the simplest answer is- he can’t.

He tries, as do his like-minded colleagues.  But he doesn’t succeed.  His web of assertions are attempting to bear too much weight.  They cannot.  And soon, when more weight (in terms of scholarly response to the theories presented here and in his Commentary) is applied to his idea, it will come crashing down.

The second half (leaving aside Frey’s rejoinder) is just the first salvo in the chicken and egg wars.  As such, it deserves your attention and your consideration.  And it also deserves a monograph in response.

Nicodemism and the English Calvin, 1544–1584

In Nicodemism and the English Calvin Kenneth J. Woo reassesses John Calvin’s decades-long attack against Nicodemism, which Calvin described as evangelicals playing Catholic to avoid hardship or persecution. Frequently portrayed as a static argument varying little over time, the reformer’s anti-Nicodemite polemic actually was adapted to shifting contexts and diverse audiences. Calvin’s strategic approach to Nicodemism was not lost on readers, influencing its reception in England.

I’ve enjoyed reading this rather a lot.  The volume, according to its author, wishes to correct a basic misunderstanding concerning Calvin’s sermons on those who attend the Mass so as to cover up the fact that they are actually Reformed in beliefs.

This book originated with the proverbial “deceptively simple” question: what is significant about John Calvin’s 1552 Quatre sermons?

And more fully

Conventional wisdom concerning Calvin’s anti-Nicodemite polemic has taken for granted the reformer’s rigid and consistent message, tending simply to assume that his approach to religious dissimulation remained static over time. The present work challenges this impression and contends that, just as with the Nicodemite he critiqued, Calvin’s anti-Nicodemism was more than it seemed. This book argues that the publication history of Quatre sermons reveals how Calvin’s anti-Nicodemite polemic could be adapted for completely different audiences. Calvin’s 1552 sermons against Nicodemism provide the ideal case study for such dynamism within his approach to this topic for two reasons: (1) the reformer’s decision to deploy his anti-Nicodemite argument over four interrelated sermons, a form unique in his published writings, which I argue was optimized to address Calvin’s situation in Geneva by silencing his detractors; and (2) the popularity of this publication in translation, particularly the five unique English editions appearing between 1553 and 1584, which spanned remarkably wide-ranging situations for English Protestantism, from persecution under Mary i to the consolidation of reform in the Elizabethan settlement. The present study demonstrates that Calvin’s strategic response to Nicodemism directly influenced his popularity with, and, consequently, his portrayal by, sixteenth-century English translators and publishers, who deployed Calvin’s arguments in new settings to support causes having little to do with Nicodemism.

I offer this rather long-ish quote because I want to be perfectly clear about the contents of this book.  And I wish to be specific about the contents of this book because potential readers need to ‘know what they are getting into’.  This is a tightly argued well crafted meticulously researched volume which is intended for a particular readership: specialists in English Calvinism.  A glance at the table of contents (here) will make that fact abundantly clear.

Specialists will discover that this work

… contends that Nicodemism functioned for Calvin and his admirers as a means for demarcating social boundaries and group identity, often as part of a larger attempt to curry favor in the eyes of others.

The correctness of this thesis is proven in the chapters following it.  Each page of text is supplemented by more footnotes than main text (by and large) which means that each idea or theory is fully documented with material from the primary and secondary literature.

The greatness of the work isn’t, though, in its history of current research or other foundational or methodological matters; its greatness lies in the crispness of the author’s deductions based on a very deep understanding of the sources and era in question.   So, for instance, Woo writes

In a Marian context, Nicodemites were complicit in the nation’s bondage to false gods and an obstacle to England’s return to the pure and free worship of God. They were portrayed negatively as those who embraced a quintessentially Roman strategy of deception, against which the faithful should assert their commitment to God by openly resisting the Mass.

And further on,

Set against the backdrop of Marian and Elizabethan Protestant anti-Nicodemism, the three translations of Quatre sermons examined in this chapter are striking for their variety as well as for an astonishing feature they held in common: none of them dealt with Nicodemism.

!  And as always when one reads a spectacular book about Calvin, there’s lots of Calvin to think about.  My particular favorite is this gem-

My doctrine is not hard, but it is the hardness of their heart that leads them to find it so.

I plan on using that.  Regularly.  Of anyone who disagrees with me about anything doctrinal.  Indeed, I plan on using this book again and again because it is a veritable trove of facts about Calvin and about his English interpreters and heirs.  It is my studied opinion that you too, dear reader, will be magnetically drawn back to this lodestone time and again to discover and re-discover Calvin’s reception and application in Britain.

The book ends with a helpful glossary of terms, a bibliography, and an index (which has no reference to Zwingli even though he is mentioned a number of times in the footnotes).

My recommendation: read this book.

Knowledge and Profanation: Transgressing the Boundaries of Religion in Premodern Scholarship

Brill has published this intriguing book:

Knowledge and Profanation offers numerous instances of profoundly religious polemicists profanizing other religions ad majorem gloriam Dei, as well as sincere adherents of their own religion, whose reflective scholarly undertakings were perceived as profanizing transgressions – occasionally with good reason. In the history of knowledge of religion and profanation unintended consequences often play a decisive role. Can too much knowledge of religion be harmful? Could the profanation of a foreign religion turn out to be a double-edged sword? How much profanating knowledge of other religions could be tolerated in a premodern world? 

In eleven contributions, internationally renowned scholars analyze cases of learned profanation, committed by scholars ranging from the Italian Renaissance to the early nineteenth century, as well as several antique predecessors. 

Contributors are: Asaph Ben-Tov, Ulrich Groetsch, Andreas Mahler, Karl Morrison, Martin Mulsow, Anthony Ossa-Richardson, Wolfgang Spickermann, Riccarda Suitner, John Woodbridge, Azzan Yadin, and Holger Zellentin.

The contents are available at the link above.  The editors of the work observe of them that

… scholars ranging from the Italian Renaissance to the early nineteenth century, as well as several antique predecessors considered in this volume, had various means by which to profanate and a variety of reasons for doing so. But what is profanation? Taken literally, it is the rendering of that, which is considered sacred profanum, i.e. transforming it into an object or person relegated to the sphere from with out the sanctuary (fanum) Taken less literally, it is a form of de-sacralisation of a text, site, person, tradition, or institution considered by some to be sacred.

And

The present volume offers numerous instances of profoundly religious polemicists profanizing other religions ad majorem Dei gloriam, as well as sincere adherents of their own religion, whose reflective scholarly undertakings were perceived as profanizing transgressions – occasionally with good reason.

While describing in detail the essays herein contained, the editors remark

Ancient mystery-cults in particular, as Asaph Ben-Tov shows, were difficult for uninitiated contemporaries to understand and more so for curious transgressors centuries later.

Which proved just the tip of the iceberg of what Ben-Tor achieved in his contribution.  Or to put it differently, our editors undersold the contents of that and other essays.  They were far more informative than even the informative descriptions would lead one to believe.

A bit later on said editors do again note

It is especially where religious traditions become increasingly reflexive, so our thesis goes, that the problem of the profane becomes more explosive.

Accordingly, the whole volume is a treasure-trove of historical insight.  Notice, if you will, this snippet from Zellentin’s work:

This paper argues that the Palestinian Talmud (hence forth: Yerushalmi), an early fifth century rabbinic compilation, sends its own mythical heroes on a tour of hell in order to engage in satirical parody of Late Roman myth, a parody comparable in its literary playfulness to that of Aristophanes, reckoning in turn with the perceived narrative transgressions of New Testament and patristic literature.

And each essay gives readers just as much to think about as Zellentin’s does.

Persons engaged in historical research should avail themselves of the opportunity to read this collection.  It is quite lovely.

A Delightful Essay in a Delightful Volume

Ttitled Rabbi Lazarus and the Rich Man: A Talmudic Parody of the Late Roman Hell, this gem in this book is so enjoyable I just felt compelled to interrupt my reading of it in order to mention it to you.

Whilst discussing the various literatures which feature a visit to hell, the author writes

Heracles evokes bathing in filth and faeces as the punishment meted out to some of the Greek stock inmates of hell: those who did injustice to strangers or parents, or took a false oath. Chiastically interwoven among the serious crimes, however, we find rather incongruously the transgressions of withholding the fee of a young male lover, and the perpetuation of the contemptible tragedies of Morsimus (whose writings are now lost).

In similar manner, the heroes and the villains of yore continued to be deployed in parodic missions to hell from classical Greece through the Second Sophistic and beyond. This paper argues that the Palestinian Talmud (henceforth: Yerushalmi), an early fifth century rabbinic compilation, sends its own mythical heroes on a tour of hell in order to engage in satirical parody of Late Roman myth, a parody comparable in its literary playfulness to that of Aristophanes, reckoning in turn with the perceived narrative transgressions of New Testament and patristic literature.

Parodies of tours of hell!  What’s not to love??  And now, back to it.  And watch for my full review in a few weeks.

Ancient Texts and Modern Readers: Studies in Ancient Hebrew Linguistics and Bible Translation

The chapters of this volume address a variety of topics that pertain to modern readers’ understanding of ancient texts, as well as tools or resources that can facilitate contemporary audiences’ interpretation of these ancient writings and their language. In this regard, they cover subjects related to the fields of ancient Hebrew linguistics and Bible translation. The chapters apply linguistic insights and theories to elucidate elements of ancient texts for modern readers, investigate how ancient texts help modern readers to interpret features in other ancient texts, and suggest ways in which translations can make the language and conceptual worlds of ancient texts more accessible to modern readers. In so doing, they present the results of original research, identify new lines and topics of inquiry, and make novel contributions to modern readers’ understanding of ancient texts.

Contributors are Alexander Andrason, Barry L. Bandstra, Reinier de Blois, Lénart J. de Regt, Gideon R. Kotzé, Geoffrey Khan, Christian S. Locatell, Kristopher Lyle, John A. Messarra, Cynthia L. Miller-Naudé, Jacobus A. Naudé, Daniel Rodriguez, Eep Talstra, Jeremy Thompson, Cornelius M. van den Heever, Herrie F. van Rooy, Gerrit J. van Steenbergen, Ernst Wendland, Tamar Zewi.

Of the many specialized volumes on linguistics that I have encountered over the years, this is the most specialized.   It’s purpose:

The chapters in this volume address a variety of topics that pertain to modern readers’ understanding of ancient texts, as well as tools or resources that can facilitate contemporary audiences’ interpretation of these ancient writings, and their language.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it.  And yet the essays herein are actually carefully reasoned scientific treatises with plenty of linguistic lingo and charts, tables, and indications of verbal percentages and the like.

A bit further along

[T]he chapters in this volume apply linguistic insights and theories to elucidate elements of ancient texts for modern readers, investigate how ancient texts help modern readers to interpret features in other ancient texts, and suggest ways in which translations can make the language and conceptual worlds of ancient texts more accessible to modern readers.

A goal which the works achieve magnificently.  But take note, this volume is not for the novice or the dilettante who makes use of Strong’s Concordance to offer their ‘opinion’ about a translation of the Hebrew text.  Indeed, Strong’s users and others unfamiliar with the intricacies of Hebrew and linguistics will be lost by paragraphs like this:

The BH construction would, therefore, have a copula functioning as a focus marker on a gap bound by a displaced subject. Possible evidence for this gap is the regular prosodic separation of the initial nominal from the copula by a disjunctive accent, even when the initial nominal is monosyllabic, e.g., וְחָ֕ם ה֖וּא אֲבִ֥י כְנָֽעַן (Gen 9:18). Such prosodic disjunction of an initial subject does not regularly occur in nominal sentences without the copula, e.g., שִׁמְךָ֣ יַעֲקֹ֑ב , “your name is Jacob” (Gen 35:10), הַבָּ֙נוֹתבְּנֹתַ֜י וְהַבָּנִ֤ים בָּנַ֙י וְהַצּ֣אֹן צאֹנִ֔י , “the daughters are my daughters; the children are my children; the flocks are my flocks” (Gen 32:43).

Essays are titled things like Copulas, Cleft Sentences and Focus Markers in Biblical Hebrew, and Categorial Gradience and Fuzziness—The QWM Gram (Serial Verb Construction) in Biblical Hebrew and Interpreting and Translating “Hanging” in Lamentations 5:12 as an Image of Impalement.  Among many others.

This, in short, is a specialists volume, by specialists, for specialists in linguistics and Hebrew.  A semester of Hebrew and a lack of familiarity with linguistic theory will simply make the volume unreadable.  On the other hand, a very good grasp of Hebrew and of linguistics will prepare the reader to enjoy the finely argued essays contained in this collection.

A Companion to Heresy Inquisitions

Inquisitions of heresy have long fascinated both specialists and non-specialists. A Companion to Heresy Inquisitions presents a synthesis of the immense amount of scholarship generated about these institutions in recent years. The volume offers an overview of many of the most significant areas of heresy inquisitions, both medieval and early Modern. The essays in this collection are intended to introduce the reader to disagreements and advances in the field, as well as providing a navigational aid to the wide variety of recent discoveries and controversies in studies of heresy inquisitions.

The table of contents is available, as is often the case these days, at the publisher’s link above.

The purpose of the work is not to detail the gory details of inquisitional doings, but to examine the ‘why’ of the inquisitions.  To that end we read

With the coming of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, inquisitions came to be mocked and vilified as the most fear some weapon of the Roman Church. Polemical writers multiplied their terrors and body counts, stretching them beyond all historical recognition.

And more particularly

This collection is intended to offer a survey of the latest scholarship about inquisitions. Therefore this volume seeks primarily to focus on the origins, machinery, and operations of heresy inquisitions at different periods and in various contexts. In that sense, the chapters will concentrate particularly on the theoretical and administrative side of the inquisitions, rather than focusing on the witnesses interviewed or the “heresies” detected.

Readers then should be forewarned that many of their preconceptions about the Inquisition will be debunked and their viewpoints undermined.  And that’s a good thing.  Because it is a fact that

Scholars have done a mighty service in embedding the institutions in their contexts and, in so doing, demonstrating the absurdity of the literary and popular fixations of the myth of the “Inquisition.”

But why, then, did the Inquisition happen?  After all, there is no pressing necessity for the harsh methods of Inquisition.  So what happened to make ‘satan into satan’ (as it were)?

Heresy inquisitions were not, then, inevitable. Henry Charles Lea, the greatest American historian of inquisitions, saw the Middle Ages as “bloodthirsty.”

The essayist goes on to point out that the ‘bloodthirsty’ image may be a bit of an overstatement, and the situation was much more nuanced.  Indeed

By the high Middle Ages, Christians had been warning each other of the risks and darknesses of “choice” (haeresis) for centuries. As is well known, the sense of the Greek haeresis, meaning the neutral choice among different philosophical schools, transformed in the hands of the earliest Christians, who identified certain doctrines, texts, and customs as heresy in the very process of – and in the service of the process of – claiming others as orthodoxy. The “choice” of such things was to select error, to follow individual stubbornness over community consensus, and to turn from God.

The onslaught of error is the precipitating cause of the inquisition.  This fear of otherness has its roots in Augustine (and even earlier, back into the New Testament itself).  As we are informed

Augustine was the avenue for the earliest, Greek strains of heresiology to enter the medieval West.

But

As early as the 1st century, Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35–c. 107) advised that the poison and corruption of heresy could be avoided by obeying bishops.

The cure, then, was to rid the body of its error.  And that is why inquisitorial procedures came on the scene.  But we still have not arrived at the place where we can understand the ‘why’ of the inquisition’s violence.  To understand that fact, we are informed

As we have seen, some of these spiritual foundations of medieval heresy inquisitions reached back to Christianity’s origins, if not quite so far as the Garden of Eden! But fears of heresy, the relationships between a stubborn individual and an authoritative community, warnings about purgatory and hell, body versus soul, et cetera flowered forth into persecution only in the apt circumstances – of the state, of the church as an institution – of the high Middle Ages.

And more to the point:

Perhaps what changed in the high Middle Ages was simply that Latin churchmen gained an unprecedented amount of confidence and power, in which they finally decided that they could attempt to be as coercive as Augustine’s God – the coercive God whom Christian clerics had long worshipped, but whom they had not, until then, dared to emulate.

I.e., the establishment of the truly authoritative Church (and not just spiritually authoritative, but politically so in no uncertain terms) was the catalyst for the violence of the inquisition.

From this point onward, the Church began to exercise its authority over body and soul.  And used every tool at its disposal to do so.

Although Bernard did not succeed in suppressing Henry at the council of Pisa, the Cistercian monk’s efforts, in fact, reveal the importance of the council as a tool in the defense of orthodoxy against popular heresy.

And

As the sermons of Ademar reveal, heresy and its repression was one of the major concerns of Western Christendom in the 11th and 12th centuries.

And then, most tellingly

It was inevitable that inquisitorial procedure would be applied to the prosecution of heretics, since purgation was hardly an effective means of countering the spread of heresy.

Mere correction didn’t work to correct error.  Harsher measures were needed.  The remainder of the volume shows in brilliant detail how all of this worked itself out in the history of the Church.

This volume is fascinating, well written, and engaging.  Get it.  Read it.  Absorb it.  Learn from it.  Teach from it.