Category Archives: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

Early Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Bd. II/2

The publisher provided a review copy, some months back which I have enjoyed reading tremendously.  All 950+ pages.

This volume is a part of a tremendously important series of volumes being published over the course of the next several years which will become the standard for research for decades to come: Acta et Documenta Synodi Nationalis Dordrechtanae (1618–1619).(ADSND), A Project of the Johannes A Lasco Bibliothek Emden.

The Synod of Dordrecht 1618/1619 was one of the most important church councils in the history of the reformed tradition. International delegates from all over Europe served as important participants and played a significant role in the evaluation of Remonstrant doctrine and in the formation of the canons. The Synod made important pronouncements on issues like Sunday observance, catechism instruction, and theological education.Given the continuing worldwide historical significance of the Synod’s canons and church order, the absence of a critical scholarly edition of the majority of documents composed at the time of the Synod is remarkable. The Johannes a Lasco Bibliothek in Emden, being a leading research center for the history and theology of Reformed Protestantism, has taken the initiative to edit the Acts of the Synod of Dordrecht 1618/1619. The edition is organized as a RefoRC project with the participation of several institutions and scholars in Europe and North-America.

At the link above the reader can find the table of contents for this work, so please do take a look at it before continuing reading the review below.

As is the case with all collections of primary sources, this volume proffers something extremely important for research: first hand material.  Such a work demands incredible devotion and meticulous care on the part of minor and major editors.  And when done properly, is literally indispensable.  Selderhuis, Moser and the others who worked very hard to make this volume happen are owed a debt of gratitude by all of us.

The materials here collected are composed in Latin, Dutch, English and French- depending on the place of origin and the purpose of the text.  English introductions are provided for every primary source and these introductions give readers critical information regarding the date of the document, the textual source of the document, collated sources for the document, and the editor of the document for the present edition.  As well, a brief history of the Synod of Dort is composed by Donald Sinnema and Christian Moser gives readers an overview of the volumes which will be found in the series of which this volume is part.  Footnotes are kept to a minimum and normally focus on important textual variants and historical notices.  Certain documents are also summarized, in English, for the benefit of the reader.

At the volume’s close there are a series of indices including names, scriptures, manuscripts, subjects and contributors.  Additionally, the index of names also offers a one sentence bio of the persons named.

The meat of the volume is historical documents related to the Synod at Dort.  To be precise, there are 298 historical documents covering everything from the credentials of those in attendance at the Synod to the Sermons preached at the Synod to the statements of various participants at the Synod and all manner of letters written about the Synod from those in attendance.

And what a slab of meat it is.  There is so much of interest between the outer covers of this book.  Reading the statements, sermons, letters, and other documents transport readers to the gallery of the Synod and indeed to the debate floor itself.  It’s no exaggeration to say that this book is exciting in that it excites a desire for further details about the Synod and awakens a desire for the forthcoming volumes in the series to appear now, today, without delay.

The Harry Potter series is popular because it leads readers to escape their own reality.  The Synod of Dort volume at hand is thrilling because it connects readers to real history.  As events unfolding.  Allowing us to be there in a very real sense.  In a sense that can never be true of fantasy works because those works are simply make believe.  Real history is always more engaging than pretend history because truth, as we all know is stranger than fiction.  It’s also more enthralling.

Happy Anniversary to one of the Best Publishers in the World

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Reformation of Prayerbooks: The Humanist Transformation of Early Modern Piety in Germany and England

In her study Chaoluan Kao offers a comprehensive investigation of popular piety at the time of the European Reformations through the study of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestant prayerbooks. It pursues a historical-contextual approach to spirituality by integrating social and religious history in order to yield a deeper understanding of both the history of Christian piety and of church history in general. The study explores seven prayerbooks by German authors and seventeen English prayerbooks from the Reformation and post-Reformation as well as from Lutheran, Anglican, and Puritan traditions, examining them as spiritual texts with social and theological significance that helped disseminate popular understandings of Protestant piety. Early Protestant piety required intellectual engagement, emphasized a faithful and heartfelt attitude in approaching God, and urged regular exercise in prayer and reading. Early Protestant prayerbooks modeled for their readers a Protestant piety that was a fervent spiritual practice solidly grounded in the social context and connections of its practitioners. Through those books, Reformation could be understood as redefining the meanings of people’s spiritual lives and re-discovering of a pious life. In a broader sense, they functioned as a channel of historical and spiritual transition, which not only tells us the transformation and transmission of Reformation historically but also signifies the development of Christian spirituality. The social-historical study of the prayerbooks furthers our understanding of continuity, change, and inter-confessional influence in the Christian piety of early modern Europe.

V&R have provided a review copy.

The volume contains a series of examinations of various English and German prayer books.  The purpose of the volume, then, is quite straightforward: to investigate the form and purpose of these kinds of texts in their 16th and 17th century contexts.  Along those lines, the author writes

… the study will mainly explore seventeen English texts from Anglican, early Puritan groups in addition to seven German texts from the Lutheran group for consulting or for reference.

In the course of the work, which is carefully written, we learn the following:

In the seventeenth century, German prayerbooks slightly changed their focus and methods of expression to better sustain their readers’ spiritual growth.

And

The first women’s writing for female readers can be found in Prayers or Meditations, a text published under the name of Queen Katherine Parr (1512– 1548) and was printed by Thomas Bertheletin in Londonon June 2, 1545.

This latter fact is one of many interesting snippets which bring to our awareness the fact that both women and children were not only engaged by prayerbooks but in the case of women, were instrumental in their composition.  The old notion that the Reformation was man’s work is debunked thoroughly not just here but in much recent Reformation scholarship.

Prayerbooks served another purpose besides enabling piety: they also served as doctrinal instruction:

In addition, since the Protestant reformers believed that wrong doctrines of prayer led to wrong exercises and directed people to wrong practices, their prayerbooks emphasized the importance of correct doctrine.

But according to the author, the most important aspect of the new prayerbooks was the fact that…

… early Protestant prayerbooks moved people’s prayer schedule from the traditional seven or eight times a day to a more flexible pattern.

In all, the book is seriously significant and provides really important insights into the practices of the earliest generations of Protestants and Reformed.

It does, however, have one minor issue which I wish had been noticed at some point in the editorial process: it lacks a native English speaker’s eye.  For instance, in several places where the definite article is needed, it is absent.  And grammatical oversights like this one are not overly common, but they do occur:

Although Luther and Calvin kept a slight different concept of private confession,
they did open up a way for self-examination to their followers.

A native speaker will notice right away that ‘slight’ should be ‘slightly’ and ‘kept’ is rather odd sounding and should probably be replaced with ‘held’.  Non-native readers will probably not find the sentence as it stands odd or unusual, but native speakers will.

This isn’t meant as an overt criticism; rather, it should be understood as a constructive comment- i.e., something to keep in mind in future volumes.

The volume’s table of contents and other front matter along with samples are available here.  For that reason, the TOC is not reduplicated here.  Interested readers of this review are encouraged to check there for the minute details of the work.

I enjoyed this book.  And I learned from it.  Accordingly, I’m quite comfortable with recommending it to you.

Intercultural Theology

A bit outside my usual stomping grounds– but it looks really interesting:

Recent years have seen a paradigm shift in Christian self-understanding. In place of the eurocentric model of ‘Christendom’, a new understanding is emerging of Christianity as a world movement with considerable cultural variety. Concomitant with this changing self-perception, a new theological discipline begins to take shape which analyzes the inter- and transcultural character and performance of global Christianity: Intercultural Theology.

Judith Gruber discusses this nascent theological approach in two parts. She first gives a critical analysis of its historical development – in the first part of the book, two theological sub-disciplines of particular relevance are analysed: (1) missiology and its reflection on the encounter of Western Christianity with other cultures in the context of colonialism; (2) contextual theologies which focus on the particularity and dignity of the diverse cultural contexts of theological practice, but fail to sufficiently integrate the universal dimension of Christianity into their theological reflections.

Secondly, this study offers a constructive theological approach to intercultural theology. It does that by bringing systematic theology into conversation with cultural studies. This interdisciplinary approach adds significant complexity to existing reflections on Intercultural Theology: Re-reading the theological history of Christianity within the critical framework of cultural theories exposes a host of disparate and conflictive Christianities underneath its dominant master narrative, and, moreover, it no longer allows a recourse to essentialist concepts of Christian identity, with which previous approaches to Intercultural Theology have mitigated this unsettling cultural plurality of Christianity: After the ‘Cultural Turn’, which has made a metaphysical epistemology untenable, new ways for thinking the unity and universality of Christianity have to be paved. The book draws on Paul Ricoeur’s and Michel Foucault’s concept of the event and on Michel deCerteau’s proposal of a ‘Weak Christianity’ in order to develop such a post-metaphysical framework, which allows to conceive of the unity and universality of Christianity without concealing its cultural plurality and contingency.

Theodizee

V&R published this volume just last year, but it seems particularly relevant these days. The link provides a flipbook showing the table of contents and other front matter.

The question of the justice or righteousness of God has tormented (or at least troubled) believers since at least as long ago as the period of the composition of Job (and doubtless much earlier).

Philosophical attempts to answer the question are set alongside theological attempts in this learned volume and readers are provided with all the major attempts to untie  this Gordian Knot, and left free to choose for themselves which is most satisfying.

Our author sets forth his aim thusly-

Ich versuche das alte Problem auf der Basis biblischer Zeugnisse neu zu bestimmen, so dass die theologische Perspektive nicht als eine Art „Krisenmanagement“ erscheint, sondern als eigenständiger Zugang sichtbar wird.

Insightfully he remarks

Nicht unser Wissen ist hier gefragt, sondern unsere Hoffnung.

And that’s certainly true.  Those who approach this issue aren’t really looking for answers to their questions, they are looking for hope, not knowledge.  The achievement of this quest follows a most sensible outline (on which, once more, see the link above and visit the table of contents).

The journey Link takes us on is one of thoughtful discovery and profound reflection as we ascend ever further, in concentric circles, visiting with philosophers and theologians along the way, towards the apex of the problem.  Towards the summit we read

Noch erfahren wir die Wirklichkeit des Bösen am eigenen Leibe, noch gibt es das „ängstliche Seufzen der Kreatur“ (Röm 8,19). Noch haben wir keine Antwort auf die Frage, warum das alles so sein muss. Auch die Kirche ist noch nicht an ihrem Ziel, sondern unterwegs. Sie kann den Grund ihrer Gewissheit nicht als Tatsache aufweisen. Sie „hat“ ihn nur in der Präsenz des Zeichens: in der Auferweckung des Gekreuzigten und in der Ausgießung des Geistes. Darum ist sie an den historischen Ort dieses Zeichens, die „Umgebung von Golgatha“ (Barth), gewiesen und blickt von dort aus in die Zukunft. Das aber tut sie schon heute in der Gewissheit, dass ihre Situation sich tatsächlich gewandelt hat gemäß dem Wort des Apostels Paulus: „Die Nacht ist vorgedrungen, der Tag aber nahe herbeigekommen“ (Röm 13,12).

Perhaps that’s the solution to be seen from the peak of this theological Himalaya: the night is passing, and day is dawning.  This volume pushes the mists of misprision aside and exposes the heart and soul of an ever abiding theological dilemma.

Link may not solve the problem, but he helps us towards it more than any of his predecessors, and that’s an amazing accomplishment itself.  Here we have a book worth reading several times.  And that’s my current plan.  I’m going to read it again.  I invite you to join me.

Debated Issues in Sovereign Predestination

»Debated Issues in Sovereign Predestination« examines three flashpoints of controversy in Reformation and Post-Reformation theology: first, the development of the Lutheran doctrine of predestination from Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon to the Formula of Concord; second, the doctrine of reprobation as traced through the writings of John Calvin; and third, the doctrine of predestination in Geneva from Theodore Beza in the 16th century to Jean-Alphones Turretin and Jacob Vernet in the 18th century. This book offers a balanced, historical analysis of a difficult subject. (Zur Leseprobe mit Inhaltsverzeichnis).

The Publisher has sent along a copy (via their magnificent North American distributor, ISD) for review and since I’m a big fan of predestination, I’m VERY keen to read it.

Learn About Calvin

With this.

Frauen der Reformationszeit: Gelehrt, mutig und glaubensfest

9783525550120Passend zur Reformationsdekade vermittelt …in diesem Buch, in dem Frauen der Reformationszeit in ihrem Leben und Werk porträtiert werden, den weiblichen Einfluss auf die Reformation in Deutschland. Sie schreibt kenntnisreich und verständlich. Gerade die frühe Reformationszeit stärkte durch die Betonung des Schriftprinzips, die Übersetzung der Bibel ins Deutsche sowie die Wertschätzung jedes Gläubigen vor Gott (»Priestertum aller Gläubigen«) das Selbstbewusstsein vieler Frauen. So fühlten sich nicht wenige berufen, aktiv durch eigene Publikationen in die Auseinandersetzungen der Reformationszeit einzugreifen und die inferiore Stellung der Frau zu bekämpfen.

Das Buch soll durch die biographischen Stationen sowie die Würdigung des theologischen und schriftstellerischen Wirkens exemplarischer Frauen (Elisabeth von Calenberg-Göttingen, Argula von Grumbach, Ursula Weyda, Elisabeth Cruciger, Wibrandis Rosenblatt, Katharina Zell, Olympia Fulvia Morata, Ursula von Münsterberg) zu Beginn der Neuzeit deutlich machen, dass es bereits vor 500 Jahren Aufbrüche zu einer Gleichberechtigung von Frauen in Kirche und Gesellschaft gegeben hat. Nach der Darstellung der einzelnen Biographien setzt sich die Autorin mit dem Frauenbild Martin Luthers auseinander.

Konzipiert ist das Buch als eine exemplarische Darstellung des theologischen, politischen und gesellschaftlichen Wirkens von Frauen in der Reformationszeit und als ein spezifischer Beitrag zur Reformationsdekade.

vandenhoeck__ruprecht

Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht Have Acquired The Theological Division of Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft

VRDie Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft hat ihr wissenschaftlich-theologisches Programm an den Göttinger Verlag Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht verkauft. Einem entsprechenden Angebot hatten die Aufsichtsräte beider Häuser bereits zugestimmt. Wirksam wird die Übernahme, die jetzt von den Geschäftsführungen beider Verlage in Neukirchen-Vluyn vertraglich besiegelt wurde, zum 1. September dieses Jahres.

Im Rahmen eines Kooperationsvertrages zwischen der Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft und Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht ist zudem festgelegt worden, dass die zuständigen Mitarbeiter aus Lektorat und Herstellung das wissenschaftliche Programm von Neukirchen-Vluyn aus vorerst weiter betreuen werden. Entlassungen wird es im Zusammenhang mit der Übernahme nicht geben. Alle in Planung befindlichen  Buchprojekte werden an den neuen Eigentümer übergeben. Die Marke »Neukirchener Theologie« wird für die nächsten fünf Jahre von Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht weiter genutzt. Die Sparte »Neukirchener Aussaat« , in der christliche Belletristik erscheint, sowie der traditionsreiche Neukirchener Kalenderverlag sind von der Übernahme nicht betroffen.

This is big.  Read the rest here.

Petrus Martyr Vermigli in Zürich (1556–1562): Dieser Kylchen in der heiligen gschrifft professor und läser

978-3-525-55099-1The Italian reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1561) arrived in Zurich in 1556 after long years of fleeing from the Roman inquisition, and taught there as professor of Old Testament studies. Moreover, he took part in the religious colloquy of Poissy as a church diplomat and wbecame an important collaborator of Heinrich Bullinger and Johannes Calvin.  Michael Baumann examines the biography of Vermigli’s last years, his theology (trained in late medieval scholasticism, but reasoning biblically as a reformed theologian) and Vermigli’s impact on Zurich’s church history.*

Of the many reformers whose names are widely known and whose works are available in translation, Vermigli is not among them.  And that, frankly, is tragic.

Vermigli’s amazing works, numbering more than 1oo volumes, have scarcely been rendered into English at all and books about his theology, in English, presently can be counted on one hand.  This lack of attention to Vermigli is really rather shocking given his importance in the history of Reformed theology in particular and Christian theology in general.

Michael Baumann’s new work seeks to redress the dearth of knowledge about Vermigli for the German speaking public.  The table of contents, which I reproduce below in its exacting thoroughness, shows the incredible work that Baumann has put into his extraordinary dissertation:

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Baumann’s use of primary sources commences with the opening chapter and continues throughout the work.  It is this inclusion of primary materials combined with Baumann’s expert analysis which makes this volume both critically important for research into Vermigli’s life and theology and a model for work in the field of historical theology.

In terms of contents, a careful reading (which is what this volume deserves rather than a rapid skimming) of this work reveals that Vermigli was, in many ways, ahead of his contemporaries in grasping the full implications of Reformed theology.  Indeed, in Vermigli, we discover the manifold riches of a profoundly thought-through theological system which, in many ways, is more expressive than Calvin’s.

With that in mind, the present reviewer would assert that it is the third chapter of this volume which is the center of the work: the core without which the rest falls aside.  Baumann’s amazing and cogent analysis of Vermigli includes important insights like this:

Mit einer ganzen Reihe von Autoritäten beschließt Martyr den Abschnitt, der einen ahnen lässt, wie heftig dieser Streit über die Prädestination geführt werden wird, wenn wir dessen Vorzeichen anhand dieses anderen Locus hier begegnet sind.203 Gott ist nicht die Ursache der Sünde, so die Schlussaussage des zweiten Locus zu diesem Thema im Samuelkommentar, doch nichts geschieht auf der Welt ohne Gottes Vorherbestimmung:

Dixi Deum proprie loquendo non esse causam peccati, nihilque fieri in mundo sive boni sive mali citra Dei providentiam. Quod si non assequutus sum scopum, dolet mihi. Si quis idoneis probationibus ostenderit hanc sententiam impiam, aut bonis moribus noxiam esse, paratus sum mutare. Verbosius autem haec dixi, quia res est magni momenti et saepe in sacris literis recurrit (S. 192).

Careful, insightful, exceptional analysis combined with a thorough grasp of the material are on display in Baumann’s work.  Nothing more could be asked of him.  And yet he provides much more.

In the fourth chapter Baumann guides readers through the fascinating forest of the reception of Vermigli’s work from the death of the great theologian to the present.  The volume ends with a series of useful indices and bibliographic entries.

German speakers have been provided an important piece of the theological puzzle that is 16th century Reformed theology.  The present volume in hand, students of that historical period are able to see that landscape more clearly and fully than ever before.

Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht’s History

ruprechtV&R are posting a series of little snippets about the publisher’s history on their facebook page, including:

In der Ära des 3. Ruprecht, der den Verlag von 1861 an allein leitete, zeichnete sich eine Spezialisierung auf die Gebiete Theologie, Philologie, Pharmakologie und Schulbuch ab. Zu neuer Blüte gelangte der Verlag durch die systematische Programmarbeit der vierten Verlegergeneration. Mit dem Eintreten der Brüder Wilhelm und Gustav Ruprecht in den Verlag (1887) wurden Theologie und Philologie gestärkt. Es entstanden wissenschaftliche Reihen, die bis heute gepflegt werden.

Als Sprachrohr der Bekennenden Kirche wurde 1933 die Zeitschrift »Junge Kirche« ins Leben gerufen und trotz vielfacher Anfeindungen bis zu ihrem Verbot 1941 herausgegeben. Insgesamt konnte die Arbeit des Verlags während des Zweiten Weltkriegs nur in sehr beschränktem Umfang fortgeführt werden.

And

Gerade ist unser Verlag 281 Jahre alt geworden!  Für alle, die einen Blick auf die lange Geschichte von Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht werfen möchten: unsere Verlagschronik ist nun auf Facebook einzusehen!
Einfach die gewünschte Jahreszahl am rechten Rand auswählen. Viel Spaß beim stöbern!

Check out their facebook page for occasional others.  Right interesting stuff indeed.  And there’s more here.

Two New Systematic Theology Volumes from V&R: Soteriology and Eschatology

978-3-525-56713-5Der neunte Band der Reihe „Studium Systematische Theologie“ bietet historische und systematische Informationen zur Soteriologie. Der biblische Ansatz wird anhand einer Gegenüberstellung des adamitischen Sündenfalls und der Höllenfahrt Jesu Christi identifiziert und insbesondere am paulinischen und johanneischen Kerygma expliziert. Als exemplarische Repräsentanten altkirchlicher Soteriologie des Ostens fungieren Athanasius und Maximus Confessor; für die klassische Tradition des mittelalterlichen und reformatorischen Westens stehen Anselm und Abaelard, Luther und Calvin. Die Darstellung neuzeitlicher Kritik von Stellvertretung und Satisfaktion beginnt mit den Sozinianern, die den weiteren Gang der Entwicklung bis zu Kant und darüber hinaus entscheidend bestimmen. Der Band schließt mit einer Skizze von Grundzügen einer aktuellen theologia crucis und einer inkarnationstheologisch fundierten Erlösungslehre, welche in den rechten theoretischen und praktischen Umgang mit den Aporien von Übel und Bosheit einzuweisen vermag.

And

978-3-525-56714-2Der zehnte und abschließende Band der Reihe „Studium Systematische Theologie“ bietet historische und systematische Informationen zur Eschatologie. Nach einer problemorientierten Analyse konfessions- und modernitätsspezifischer Ansätze wird ein Begriff christlicher Glaubensphantasie entwickelt, der als hermeneutischer Schlüssel des Lehrstücks fungieren kann. Inhaltlich wird sodann vom Tod des Einzelmenschen und dem Problem seiner Seelenunsterblichkeit, von der allgemeinen Totenauferstehung und dem Problem ihrer Leiblichkeit, von Gerechtigkeit und Jüngstem Gericht sowie von der Frage gehandelt, wie eschatologisch über Himmel und Hölle sowie die Vorstellung eines purgatorischen Interims zu urteilen ist. Nach Epilegomena zu Nah- und Fernerwartung endet der Band mit einem das Gesamtwerk beschließenden Nachwort zu theologischer Zeitgenossenschaft.

My review of these volumes will be posted here.

Orthodox, Puritan, Baptist: Hercules Collins (1647–1702) and Particular Baptist Identity in Early Modern England

978-3-525-55086-1New from the good folk at V&R

The life and writings of Hercules Collins provide a window into understanding how seventeenth-century Baptists viewed themselves in relationship to historic Christianity and Puritan orthodoxy: Collins was not only a respected member of the Particular Baptist community, but was also a faithful representative of that community. G. Stephen Weaver Jr.’s examination of Collins’ commitment to historic Christianity and Protestant orthodoxy serves as an opportunity to understand better the doctrinal commitments of seventeenth-century English Particular Baptists.

Church history is littered with the names of the barely remembered and mostly forgotten.  And though I am not of the tribe of gamblers, I would nonetheless wager that Mr Hercules Collins is one of those.

Such persons make excellent subjects for doctoral dissertations for two reasons: there’s little modern material written on them and because it’s becoming harder and harder for PhD students to find something upon which to dissertate.  Hercules Collins?  Was he even a real person?  Or the construct of a fertile mind from days long forgotten?

If our author is to be believed, he was indeed a real person who really made an impact on a segment of Baptists in 17th century Britain.

Hercules Collins was, as Stephen Weaver suggests in this important addition to scholarship on early modern religious history, a foremost theorist of Baptist identity and pioneer in Reformed ecumenism. Born during the first civil war, he found his way into a new religious movement that was still struggling to find its feet in the polemical world of English Protestantism, and dedicated himself to providing his Baptist brethren with the theological resources by which they could make sense of their situation as their circumstances grew ever more desperate (p. 19, in the Preface).

That is, it seems, the perfect summary of Collins’s efforts.  Like many early Baptists, he confronted difficulties and overcame them.  Have we here, then, simply another volume in a long line of volumes which are easily summarized as hagiography?  The situation is, thankfully, a bit more complicated than that, for here our author takes us on a tour of a fascinating man’s life and provides us with an overview of that life which is both informative and inspiring.  On page 21, he writes

I first became interested in Hercules Collins after Michael A.G. Haykin suggested him to me as “a largely neglected figure” in Baptist life.  

That’s certainly not false.  Collins was not, and has not been neglected because he is uninteresting but because it seems he simply suffered the fate of being unheard of.  Weaver is a fair enough writer although he can be plodding at times and his prose lacks at points the lilting power which makes reading so pleasurable.  At points Weaver is even a bit monotonous.  Take, for instance, this snippet:

Collins was arrested with thirteen others, including Tobias Wells and Richard Blunt in June of 1670, for assembling unlawfully “at a conventicle & other misdemeanours.”  This was apparently a Baptist meeting, given that out of the fourteen total names, three of the four names that remain legible on the document are the names of known Baptists (p. 37).

That, however, is not to suggest that the volume is uniformly uninspired.  Quite the contrary, the plodding and boring bits are far outnumbered by the engaging and intriguing ones:

Collins was clearly sensitive to the physical needs of the pastor’s wife and children. In his work on studying and preaching published in 1702, he admonished the community of Particular Baptist churches of which he was a part to be zealous in caring for the needs of their pastor for the sake of his family (p. 56).

Students of the history of the Baptist movement in England will find herein a very worthwhile book written in a scholarly manner by a student of the period who knows his subject well.  Collins, it turns out, is no Zwingli.  But he’s worth knowing and that’s a very important fact itself.

Calvin and the Book: The Evolution of the Printed Word in Reformed Protestantism

Coming soon:

978-3-525-55088-5The contributors, international experts on the history of Calvin and Reformed Protestantism and on Calvin’s theology, bring a wide variety of historical and theological approaches to bear on the question of Calvin’s relationship to the printed word. Taken all together, they will push specialists and general readers to rethink standard assumptions about Calvin’s influence on Reformed Christianity and, in particular, about the interplay among theology, Reformed discipline, religious education efforts, and the printed word in early modern Europe.

The Spirituality of the Heidelberg Catechism

978-3-525-55084-7Arnold Huijgen (Ed.), The Spirituality of the Heidelberg Catechism: Papers of the International Conference on the Heidelberg Catechism Held in Apeldoorn 2013.

At the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism, an international conference on the spirituality of the Heidelberg Catechism was held at the Theological University Apeldoorn, 21-22 June 2013. While the contributors center on the Catechism’s spirituality, they offer a broad range of scholarly perspectives on the Catechism. Its spirituality is famous for the first question and answer, on the only comfort in life and death: “That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”

The table of contents and all the relevant stuff is available here.

A New Volume of Interest to Scholars of the Hebrew Bible and Text Criticism

The Text of the Hebrew Bible:
From the Rabbis to the Masoretes
 edited by Elvira Martín-Contreras and Lorena Miralles-Maciá

Regular Price: $113.00 / Special Offer Price: $91.00

Description:  This book aims to open up the discussion and research of the up to now unstudied period of the History of the Hebrew Bible text: the period from the apparent stabilization of the Hebrew biblical text until the standardization that is reflected in the manuscripts of biblical text, those including the Masorah (c. 2nd – 9th centuries A.D.). What took place from the time of the standardization of the consonantic text of the Hebrew Bible until the appearance of the first Masoretic codices? How was the biblical text preserved in the meantime? How was the body of notes that makes up the Masorah formed? How can the diversity of the textual traditions contained in the Masorah be explained and be consistent with the idea of a text established and standardized centuries before?

For more information, please visit:  https://www.isdistribution.com/BookDetail.aspx?aId=35448

Mit Gott im Grünen

 978-3-525-60451-9Jan Peter Grevel’s »Mit Gott im Grünen.« (A Practical Theology of the experience of nature):

On the one hand experience of nature is more and more eliminated from everyday life which is dominated by technology and rationalism. On the other hand a vague longing for nature arises particularly in the face of an aggravating ecological crisis. At the same time one can notice that experiences of nature are often linked to those of religion and to religiously charged language. This Practical Theology of the experience of nature begins with the empirical exploration of the aforesaid phenomena of lived religion analysing, amongst other things, the mass-media discourse on the Elbe flood 2002, a mountainous hiking tour, and contemporary allotment gardening. These empirical explorations eventually help to clarify crucial theological points of view and contribute to current debates on life and religion.

Interested readers can click the link above and there they will have available not only the table of contents but also the foreword, the introduction, and a sample chapter.  A glance thereat shows that this volume is concerned with discussing what I would call a ‘theology of nature’.

Unsurprisingly, this is a revised doctoral dissertation.  As the author puts it

Die vorliegende Arbeit wurde im SS 2013 vom Fachbereich Evangelische Theologie der Goethe Universität Frankfurt als Habilitationsschrift angenommen und für den Druck nun noch geringfügig überarbeitet. Mein Dank gilt zu allererst Herrn Prof. Dr. Hans-Günter Heimbrock, der die Arbeit in den vergangenen Jahren mit Weitblick, Verve und steter Neugier gefördert und begleitet hat.

As a revised dissertation, what can be expected of it is exactly what it delivers: a careful and well documented closely examined evaluation of the topic at hand.  But what precisely is that topic?  Or, to state it another way, what is the aim or purpose of this work?  It is to address these questions and others like them:

Immer wieder traf ich auf Menschen, die ihren morgendlichen Spazierweg, ihren Meeresblick im Urlaub, das Rotkelchen im Garten oder den Tau des frühen Sommermorgens liebten und dabei auf eine Weise Religion und Glaube ins Gespräch brachten, die mir Unbehagen bereitete, weil ich sie nicht verstand, weil sie sich anderer „Vokabeln“ bedienten und alles das auf mich manches Mal wie ein „Transzendenzschub“ wirkte, wie etwas, was aus dem Mond gefallen ist, da ist und wieder vergeht. Hat Natur überhaupt etwas mit dem zu tun, was evangelische Theologie unter der Chiffre Religion verhandelt? Oder bedarf es einfach besonderer Fähigkeiten, auf einem Spaziergang durch den Wald mehr zu sehen als die zweifelhaften Segnungen der Holzwirtschaft, die Sorge um den Borkenkäfer und die Frage nach der Zukunft der heimischen Holzwirtschaft?

These aren’t irrelevant issues.  Especially in the present milieu.  But is our author able to answer these and other questions like them?  To an extent, yes.  At times, he stays close to home and ‘sticks to the subject’ but at times he seems to wander a bit (as in, for example, Chapter 2, Part B).

He also seems, at times, to be sidetracked too easily.  Indeed, the impression is given a few times that he is ‘trying too hard’.  For instance

Daneben transportiert die FAZ noch eine weitere Diskursstimme, die angesichts der für die Dauer der Krise problematisch gewordenen technischen Rationalität als Subdiskurs der Zeitung wahrzunehmen ist. Dieser bricht sich zunächst durch die ironisch gebrochene Rezeption der traditionell verankerten Sintflutmetapher Bahn. Beide Diskurse stehen in Konflikt zueinander und lassen sich auch als Differenz zwischen Politikressort und Feuilletonteil der FAZ begreifen. Der Subdiskurs zieht die technische Problemlösung als Bewältigung der Krise in Zweifel und kritisiert das darin favorisierte funktionale Naturbild. Angeregt wird dies durch eine Poetisierung der Krisenerfahrung. Dieser Subdiskurs greift nur vereinzelt auf religiös geprägte Sprache zurück.

The temptation is to deem this bit and a few like it ‘filler’.  Sub-excurses?  To what end?  The chief argument is more than adequate and more than adequately made.

In spite of the wordiness of the volume (and I suppose that can be fairly attributed to a desire for specificity and clarity and not simply to expand the work needlessly) it is an important contribution to the theological enterprise.  It is, perhaps (and about this I cannot be dogmatic or assertive because I haven’t read every volume on the issue), the most important on the subject presently available and recently produced.  It is an enjoyable volume and instructive.  Consequently, in the view of this reviewer, it is a volume worth reading and contemplating.

And if readers are pressed for time, I recommend skipping Chapter 2, Part B.

»Meaning and Melancholy in the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas«

978-3-525-60452-6Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht sent some time back this newly published volume – Stine Holte: »Meaning and Melancholy in the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas« for review.

Melancholy… That’s a completely sensible description of Levinas, his work, and the effect he has on readers.  And what do readers take away from the present volume?  Our author states it both concisely and accurately:

… the question of the meaning of the ethical does not have a simple answer, but that fundamental ambiguities are involved in Levinas’ work – between meaning and the meaningless, between hope and melancholy.

The fundamental ambiguities readers find in Levinas are smoothed out and the gaps filled in by Holte in such a way that even those (like myself) who are not at all familiar in any deep sense with the angst ridden philosopher’s work come away with a fairly good understanding of his thought and purpose.

Holte achieves this nearly miraculous explanation by carefully guiding readers through the following major divisions:

Part 1: The Light And Darkness Of Phenomenological Meaning
Part 2: Transcendence And Sensibility

Part one gives readers an entrance into Levinas’ thought-world and part two integrates the various aspects of his thought into something like, or essentially resembling, an organized system. It is, in the author’s words,

… an elaborated version of my doctoral dissertation…

And while it’s easy to be cynical about the cottage industry of dissertation turned into monograph for public consumption so rampantly in evidence these days this is one of those rare dissertations that actually should be read by an audience wider than the researcher’s examination committee, unlucky spouse, and dread-filled parents compelled to describe such things as ‘very interesting’ or even more damningly ‘well I’m sure your adviser will think it’s good’.

For instance, think of this fragment:

Whatever focus one chooses to approach the question of the meaning of the ethical, it is crucial to keep in mind the importance of otherness in Levinas’ work. Simon Critchley summarizes Levinas’ main concern as “the putting in question of my spontaneity by the presence of the Other” (Critchley 1999, 1, 5). In Levinas’ thinking, otherness is the source of ethical subjectivity and responsibility, and thereby different from, say, philosophies that take autonomy or the ideal of a good life as the foundational principles of ethics.

Holte writes as a philosopher, examining a philosopher, without falling into the trap of sounding like a sophist.  To be fair, I don’t read a large number of philosophical works (having had my fill of them as an undergrad) and philosophical theology or theological philosophy because, to be blunt, they’re boring.

So I was both surprised and relieved to discover that this book was not boring or uninteresting.  This segment grabbed my attention at the very commencement of the study:

In one of Isaiah Berlin’s famous essays, he divides thinkers into “foxes” and “hedgehogs”, according to an old Greek myth: Foxes know many small things, whereas hedgehogs know one big thing. In his introductory essay on Emmanuel Levinas, Hilary Putnam refers to this dichotomy and characterizes Levinas as “one of the hedgehogs we need to listen to” (Putnam 2002, 58). In a similar manner, Jacques Derrida compared Levinas’ thinking “with the crashing of a wave on a beach, always the same wave returning and repeating its movement with deeper insistence” (Der : VM 124).

And Holte held my attention throughout.  To the non-bitter end:

… the hesitation between melancholy and hope could be considered as more than a “bipolar” dualism and instead as an expression of a deep ethical humility. This would indeed require a certain rethinking of the strict limits between ethics and pathology, but a rethinking that makes it possible for Levinas to talk of the meaning of the ethical at all.

A ‘philosophical’ volume which examines a rather moribund person like Levinas and yet which remains throughout both intriguing and engaging is surely something to commend.  Accordingly, I commend this to you- even if philosophy isn’t your chief (or secondary, or tertiary) interest.

Heinrich Bullinger on Prophecy and the Prophetic Office (1523–1538)

A new book by Daniël Timmerman titled Heinrich Bullinger on Prophecy and the Prophetic Office (1523–1538) is to be released this month by Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

10846064_693176880798979_1080855991602246170_nIt has often been noted that the Protestant Reformation of the early sixteenth century witnessed a revived interest in the scriptural notions of prophets and prophecy. Drawing from both late medieval apocalyptic expectations of the immanent end of the world and from a humanist revival of biblical studies, the prophet appeared to many as a suitable role model for the Protestant preacher. A prominent proponent of this prophetic model was the Swiss theologian and church leader Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575). This study by Daniël Timmerman presents the first in-depth investigation of Bullinger’s concept of prophecy and his understanding of the prophetic office. It also engages with the history of the Zurich institute for the study of the Scriptures, which has become widely known as the »Prophezei«.

I’ve read it in manuscript. It’s brilliant.  You’ll want to read it.

The Portrayals of the Pharisees in the Gospels and Acts

978-3-525-53615-5Mary Marshall
The Portrayals of the Pharisees in the Gospels and Acts
1. Edition 2015
265 pages
ISBN 978-3-525-53615-5
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

The first five books of the New Testament contain a large proportion of all uses of the term Farisai/oj in extant literature. In the light of growing scepticism among historians of Judaism over the accuracy and legitimacy of reconstructions of the Pharisees of history, Mary Marshall sets aside the quest for the historical Pharisees and instead offers an analysis of the portrayal of the Pharisees by each evangelist. The author adopts a redaction critical approach which incorporates narrative critical observations where appropriate. Her examination of the texts demonstrates the particularity of each book and its portrayal of the Pharisees. The five books do not portray a monolithic body of evidence but each has its own style, occasion and purpose(s). All New Testament portrayals of the Pharisees occupy a good deal of common ground and yet the pictures they produce are not identical. Every one of the evangelists integrates the Pharisees into his own presentation of the gospel,emphasising those aspects of the Pharisees’ portrayal which serve his own particular concerns. This study of material from the gospels and Acts yields multi-faceted portraits of the Pharisees and discloses the variety of christological, soteriological, ecclesiological and ethical concerns with which they are associated. It alerts the exegete both to the nuances within a given New Testament book and to the subtle differences between books. It demonstrates the combination of fidelity and freedom with which the evangelists regarded their inherited tradition and sources. The way the Pharisees are portrayed in each text is particular to that text and its purposes, and therefore consideration of the Pharisees’ portrayal is able to enrich our understanding of the gospels and Acts more generally.

Mary Marshall’s helpful volume creatively and carefully unravels the Four Gospels and Acts understanding of the Pharisees- that much maligned and troublesome lot of Jesus-tormenting first century Jews.  She shows that the Gospels each have a particular view of the Pharisees which they are attempting to convey to their readers and, most intriguingly, she shows that Luke and Acts have quite different ‘takes’ on them.  I found that discussion to be the most interesting of the entire volume, as it may lead to a re-evaluation of the authorship of Luke-Acts as stemming from the hand of one author.

Allow me to illustrate her points in her own words:

It is the contention of this study that the portrayals of the Pharisees in the four Gospels and Acts are complex and individual. It upholds the validity and importance of a trend in recent scholarship to set aside the goal of reconstructing the Pharisees of history and concentrate instead on the way that they are presented in the different texts (p. 16).

Luke and Acts are indeed complex, and individual, in their portraits of the Pharisees.  Marshall then remarks

I propose to offer … a treatment which will encompass all five texts whilst maintaining a focus on the portrayal of the Pharisees. I hope to provide a more detailed and comprehensive analysis than that provided by existing articles and to highlight the relevance of these analyses to other areas of New Testament scholarship. To reiterate, this study will not reconstruct an historical group called Φαρισαιοι neither does it rest on the assumption that the Gospels and Acts reflect such a group, (although this possibility will be raised with regard to the exegesis of certain passages and discussed more fully in relation to the fourth Gospel). It will not offer a solution to any of the debates concerning New Testament attitudes to Jews and Judaism, the evangelists’ attitude towards the law or controversies with Jewish leaders. Moreover, it will not provide an exhaustive exegesis of whole pericopae but only those aspects that affect the Pharisees’ portrayal. The contribution of this study to debates on broader issues and the exegesis of whole texts will consist in the clarification of how the portrayals of the Pharisees may be relevant to other scholarly pursuits (p. 20).

It will not do a lot of things but it will do one thing: it will “consist in the clarification of how the portrayals of the Pharisees may be relevant to other scholarly pursuits”.

Of course Marshall does all the required things like explain her methodology and outline in the table of contents every move to be made.  She provides plenty of documentation and she does all the things that scholars do when they’re writing for other scholars, including providing notes and bibliographies.   And she does it all very well.  Technically, there’s nothing to dislike here or even complain about.

Her argument- the heart and soul of the book- is just, on the other hand- superb.  It isn’t the run of the mill repetition of earlier scholarship with minor adjustments which are then declared ‘game changing’ or ‘a paradigm shift’ that we have all come to expect of far too much biblical scholarship.  It is, instead, a true innovation, a new direction, a game changer, a paradigm shift in our understanding of this seriously important first century Jewish sect.

There are numerous brilliant points, but, for the present reviewer, most interestingly of all

In Luke’s depiction of Jesus’ ministry, Pharisees are fundamentally opposed to the kingdom of God, whereas in Acts, Pharisaism is not incompatible with membership or even leadership of the church. The portrayal of the Pharisees in Acts does not focus on Israel’s rejection of Jesus (this is exemplified by other Jews, the high priest and the Sadducees) but instead clarifies that the church exists in continuity with Israel and has inherited its promises so that even the most respected and fastidious Jews, namely the Pharisees, do not oppose it (p. 245).

And

Luke and Acts also depart from the Synoptic portrayal in another remarkable way. For the most part, all four Gospels and Acts portray the Pharisees as a group, they reason, discuss and act as a collective. However, the third evangelist introduces individual Pharisees to his presentation: Simon in the Gospel and Gamaliel (and Paul, although he is a special case) in Acts. Their portrayals contribute to that of the group in as much as they are its representatives and behave as Pharisees do elsewhere in Luke and Acts respectively (Ibid).

Flashes of brilliance such as are illustrated above occur regularly throughout the book.  It should be read by every student of the Gospels and Acts.  It is the ground floor of a new understanding of the Pharisees.  And that is no exaggeration.