Category Archives: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

Happy Anniversary to one of the Best Publishers in the World


The Council of Trent: Reform and Controversy in Europe and Beyond (1545-1700)

Exactly 450 years after the solemn closure of the Council of Trent on 4 December 1563, scholars from diverse regional, disciplinary and confessional backgrounds convened in Leuven to reflect upon the impact of this Council, not only in Europe but also beyond. Their conclusions are to be found in these three impressive volumes. Bridging different generations of scholarship, the authors reassess in a first volume Tridentine views on the Bible, theology and liturgy, as well as their reception by Protestants, deconstructing many myths surviving in scholarship and society alike. They also deal with the mechanisms ‘Rome’ developed to hold a grip on the Council’s implementation. The second volume analyzes the changes in local ecclesiastical life, initiated by bishops, orders and congregations, and the political strife and confessionalisation accompanying this reform process. The third and final volume examines the afterlife of Trent in arts and music, as well as in the global impact of Trent through missions.

All the details of the volume can be found here.   Just click the Leseprobe tab.  There you will find the table of contents, etc., so that those materials won’t be repeated here.

Readers of book reviews generally want to know what the book under consideration contain (and thanks to the internet, that information is now generally available on the publisher’s website) and, more importantly, if it’s worth buying or recommending to their library or even checking out from their lending source.

Further, potential readers of the book want to know if there are problems with it.  If it fails to meet the reader’s needs or doesn’t deliver the advertised scholarship then the review it receives should reflect those facts.  If, however, it meets expectations or surpasses them, it receives a more positive review.

This book meets expectations.  And it is the first of a planned three in the series.  Volume two will take in hand the Bishops and Princes along with Church and Politics.  And volume three will turn our attention to Art and Music followed by Global Catholicism.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself a bit and wish to return to consideration of the present volume.  It’s highlight, for me, is the chapter titled Trent and the Latin Vulgate: A Louvain Project?  This really amazing piece traces the incredible significance of the Louvain-ers in the production and promulgation of the biblical text that would be chosen as THE Catholic Bible.   Seldom does one encounter such carefully reconstructed historical detail.  Text critics and students of the history of the Vulgate will benefit immensely from reading this essay.

Equally enjoyable is G. Frank’s essay on Melanchthon and Trent.  Perhaps because I enjoy Melanchthon so much or perhaps because Frank is such a clear writer.

Not, strictly speaking, a theological essay but rather a historical one is Sachet’s “Privilege of Rome: The Catholic Church’s Attempt to Control the Printed Legacy of the Council of Trent”.  The attempts of Rome to control the narrative about Trent by controlling what was published of and from it is extremely intriguing.  The Church of Rome has always manifested a fairly high level of control.  This essay shows how that mentality worked itself out in the wake of Trent.

Enjoyable too is the essay by John O’Malley on Trent and Vatican II.  Here he shows that in spite of the major differences between the two Councils, they share some amazing similarities.  ‘They nicely illustrate the paradox of history’, opines O’Malley in the closing paragraphs.  I will let readers discover for themselves the surprise in store.

I think this is a very fine collection of essays and if volumes two and three are as excellent, then this series will become standard fare for historians of the Catholic Church.  I am happy to recommend it to your personal library and to your research library.  It fills an important gap in that it goes into greater detail on the issues of the Council of Trent than more general treatments and histories do.

Where the general textbooks scratch the surface, this volume bores into the bone.

A New Divinity

Mark Jones, Michael A. G. Haykin
A New Divinity
Reformed Historical Theology 49
ISBN 13: 978-3-525-55285-8

This is a study on Reformed theological debates during the »Long Eighteenth Century« in Britain and New England. By »Long« a period that goes beyond 1700–1799 is in view. This examination begins just before the eighteenth century by looking at the Neonomian-Antinomian debate in the 1690s. This is followed by the Marrow Controversy in Scotland in the eighteenth century. After that, the authors address the ecclesiological debates between George Whitefield and the Erskines. The doctrine of free choice concerning Edwards and his departure from classical Reformed orthodoxy is highlighted next, followed by reflections on the Edwardseans and the atonement. Returning to Britain again, the volume provides a study on hyper-Calvinism, and on eschatological differences among key figures in the eighteenth century. More specific debates in particular Baptist circles are noted, including the battle over Sandemandianism and the Trinitarian battles fought by Andrew Fuller and others. Returning to ecclesiology, a discussion on the subscription controversy in Philadelphia in the early eighteenth century and an analysis of the debate about the nature of »revival« in New England close this volume.

I appreciate V&R sending along a review copy (supplied by their North American distributor, ISD).

Readers are encouraged to click on the link above and then scroll down to the ‘Leseprobe’ tab to see the table of contents and other front matter.  Those materials aren’t repeated here since they are easily available there.

The twelve essays here collected offer readers very carefully presented materials on a number of very intriguing aspects of the history of the Church in its Reformed manifestation in 17th and 18th century England and America.  In particular, VanDoodewaard’s work on the Marrow Controversy, Helm’s on Hyper-Calvinism, Herzer on Eschatology, Finn on Sandemanianism, and Smart on the Great Awakening are wonderfully crafted academic essays.  Smart, concise, and informative are the three terms that come to mind whilst reading these contributions.

The editor’s introduction (which can be read at the link above) nicely outlines the essays here included and shows their relatedness.  The volume also includes a list of contributors and an index of persons.

The chief aim is nicely encapsulated in the last paragraph-

Would I recommend this collection?  Certainly.  Go read this book then.  And you’ll love it.

Christ and the Old Covenant

A new volume by V&R in the Refo500 Historical Theology series has appeared:

This study explores the Cocceian-Voetian debate through the eyes of Francis Turretin (1623–1687). There is a dearth of research on Turretin’s take on this debate, the author will parse out how Turretin adheres to the Voetianism of the Utrecht theologian Melchior Leydekker (1642–1721) while remaining conciliatory to the Cocceians. With Leydekker, Turretin argues that Christ’s suretyship in the Old Testament is identical to what it is in the New Testament. As the Father decrees that Christ is the most perfect and certain fulfiller of God’s promise, the ancients benefit from Christ’s sacrifice as much as do the saints in the New. The sins of the elect must be fully forgiven regardless of the progress of redemption in history, for the faithful both in the Old and the New are saved by the same grace of Christ, the expromissor. At the same time, not only does Turretin leave out some of the controversial issues between the two parties, but he also tends to neutralize Leydekker’s acid criticism of the extreme form of Cocceianism. This conciliatory gesture indicates that Turretin does not consider Cocceianism his archenemy. Seen in this light, Turretin can be viewed as a moderate and peaceful Voetian.

The volume at hand is, in a word, complex and specialized.  It is for specialists, by one.  It’s contents are neither for the faint at heart nor the poorly informed.  And readers will know that when they land on the very first paragraph:

There is no scholarly consensus on the nature of the Mosaic law and its role in the history of redemption. To what extent did the Mosaic law recapitulate the covenant of works? How were the people of God saved under the legal economy? How did Christ reveal himself to his people before the incarnation? These are the key questions that should be answered when one situates the Mosaic law within the framework of covenant theology. It is little known today that the Reformed orthodox in the seventeenth century already debated over these questions.

Things don’t become simpler or less specialized as the work progresses:

This study explores this intra-Reformed controversy through the eyes of Francis Turretin.  … This book will show how Turretin adheres to the Voetianism of the Utrecht theologian Melchior Leydekker (who is also known as Leydecker or Leidekker, 1642–1721) while remaining conciliatory to the Cocceians.  With Leydekker, Turretin argues that Christ’s suretyship in the Old Testament is identical to what it is in the New Testament.

And off we go.  In this intensive and demanding study readers come to encounter one of the most focused debates of Reformed Orthodoxy.  It’s the sort of thing that makes the Medieval question of how many angels could dance on the head of a pin seem like watching the Dukes of Hazzard or Gilligan’s Island.  Allow me to illustrate:

Our investigation suggests that in spite of their common Voetian stance, the ninth quaestio of the twelfth locus of Turretin’s Institutio and the second liber of Leydekker’s Vis veritatas are by no means monolithic. Turretin aims his polemic at a number of the Cocceians, the plural “Viri Docti” (12.9.9), whereas Leydekker’s acerbic remarks are geared toward the problematic writer of the booklet, the singular “Vir Doctus” (a:73).

And again

Turretin’s and Leydekker’s accounts of the Old Testament fathers’ status stands as a sequel to their treatment of the expromissio/fidejussio debate. As Turretin points out, “The quaestio about the Sponsor of the Covenant of Grace under the Old Testament” springs from “the fathers’ [Old Testament saints’] status under the Old Testament,” and therefore, deciding the nature of Christ’s suretyship greatly affects the present quaestio, De statu patrum sub Vetero Testamento.

I cite these passages to make it plain that only persons who have a quite specific interest in a quite specific slice of Reformed Orthodox debate will find the work to be of use.  Generalists and those looking for a volume treating a wider aspect of Church history or Historical Theology will be nonplussed.  But those who are of the sort who are the intended audience of this revised Doctoral dissertation will find it rich and full and thoroughly fascinating.

Put another way, and more colloquially, Reformed Orthodox nerds will love it!  I would suggest that readers begin with Chapter 8, though, as it summarizes the argument and sort of serves as a map to the whole.  Along with the usual materials in such a volume there’s also an appendix which lists the contents of Leydekker’s Vis Veritatis (which you can read online, by the way, here).

Theology of the Old Testament

From V&R.

Michaela Bauks zeichnet in diesem Lehrbuch zur Theologie des Alten Testaments die impliziten theologischen Konzepte des Alten Testaments nach. Altorientalische Traditionen, literargeschichtliche Entwicklungen und bibelhermeneutische Überlegungen werden behandelt, auch die kirchliche und schulische Praxis wird eigens berücksichtigt.

Das Lehrbuch präsentiert die zentralen theologischen Themen der hebräischen Bibel in der Reihenfolge der gegebenen Grundformen. Zur Erzählung, zum Recht, zur Prophetie, zum Kult und zur Weisheit finden Interessierte bei Bauks die zentralen Informationen. Im Kern geht es Bauks um die verschiedenartigen Offenbarungsformen Gottes gegenüber den Menschen und seinem Volk. Neben literargeschichtlichen Aspekten und innerbiblischer Entwicklungslinien finden daher auch die traditionsgeschichtlichen Parallelen und altorientalische Traditionen Berücksichtigung.

Im Detail werden die Themenkreise Monotheismus, Götterbild, Gottesname, Gottes Königtum, Eschatologie und Geschick Israels verhandelt. Anhand dieser Themenbereiche wird die Gottesvorstellung der hebräischen Bibel systematisch vertieft.

Der Bezugsrahmen der „Heiligen Schrift“ wird von Bauks kanonhermeneutisch und biblisch-theologisch reflektiert und umrissen.

Insgesamt finde sich in diesem Buch damit alles, was man fürs Studium braucht: 

das Wichtigste über theologische Konzepte, altorientalische Traditionen, literargeschichtliche Entwicklungen sowie Impulse zur Hermeneutik des Alten Testaments.

This uniquely organized volume is comprised of three major divisions:

  1. Introduction
  2. Theological Themes in their Biblical Contexts
  3. Old Testament Theology as Polyphonic Speech of God

It also contains two appendices and the usual indices and listing of illustrations.  The very first sentence of the introduction describes the volume’s purpose:

Dieses Buch ist ein Lehrbuch, das die zentralen theologischen Themen des Alten Testaments/der hebräischen Bibel zusammenstellt.

Fulfilling that task, our author leads readers into the majestic vistas which comprise the Hebrew Bible.  But this is done in such a way that the pedagogical needs of Professors and students are central.  For instance, one of the tables included shows, in a quite useful way, the variety of approaches to the study of the Hebrew Bible:

Armed with this material, readers are able to trace the various ways in which the Bible can be studied and appreciated.

Another useful aspect of the volume is the inclusion of quite thorough and up to date bibliographies at the conclusion of each chapter.  For example, in part, after the discussion of the Psalms, we find

English entries are also included when deemed appropriate by the author.

There’s something else that’s unique about this volume and that’s its interest in the inclusion of the Old Testament in the preaching of the Church.  To that end, one of the appendices, Anhang 1: Alttestamentliche Themen und Texte in der Perikopenordnung, by Jochen Wagner, offers an outline of the Church year with appropriate readings for the Liturgical Calendar:

The second appendix provides religious education teachers an outline for a course in Old Testament.

In sum, this volume has an eye to the needs of the Professor, the student, the preacher, and the teacher.  It does a superb job in presenting the themes found in the Old Testament and explaining those themes in a clear and helpful way.  It is utterly enjoyable and thoroughly instructive.  I recommend it.

Reforming Priesthood in Reformation Zurich: Heinrich Bullinger’s End-Times Agenda

Jon D. Wood
Reforming Priesthood in Reformation Zurich
Reformed Historical Theology 54
ISBN 13: 978-3-525-57092-0

The dramatic task of re-imagining clerical identity proved crucial to the Renaissance and Reformation. Jon Wood brings new light to ways in which that discussion animated reconfigurations of church, state, and early modern populace. End-Times considerations of Christian religion had played a part in upheavals throughout the medieval period, but the Reformation era mobilized that tradition with some new possibilities for understanding institutional leadership. Perceiving dangers of an overweening institution on the one hand and anarchic “priesthood of all believers” on the other hand, early Protestants defended legitimacy of ordained ministry in careful coordination with the state. The early Reformation in Zurich emphatically disestablished traditional priesthood in favour of a state-supported “prophethood” of exegetical-linguistic expertise. The author shows that Heinrich Bullinger’s End-Times worldview led him to reclaim for Protestant Zurich a notion of specifically clerical “priesthood,” albeit neither in terms of statist bureaucracy nor in terms of the traditional sacramental character that his precursor (Huldrych Zwingli) had dismantled. Clerical priesthood was an extraordinarily fraught subject in the sixteenth century, especially in the Swiss Confederation. Heinrich Bullinger’s private manuscripts helpfully supplement his more circumscribed published works on this subject. The argument about reclaiming a modified institutional priesthood of Protestantism also prompts re-assessment of broader Reformation history in areas of church-state coordination and in major theological concepts of “covenant” and “justification” that defined religious/confessional distinctions of that era.

The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective

Frank van der Pol
The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective
Refo500 Academic Studies (R5AS) 51,
ISBN 13: 978-3-525-57070-8

In 11 essays The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective reflect ongoing investigations concerning the doctrine of election, with special focus on the Synod of Dort 1618–19. Important lines of demarcation between different Reformed orthodox groups and denominations find their root divergence, as well as historical concentration point, in relation to this very issue. The ongoing research presented in this collection can open up a fresh field of fertile investigation for theological discussion. Moreover, she may lead to interdisciplinary perspectives and a cooperative approach to research, also beyond the field of theology. For this too is the field of philosophers and historians, those who trace the history of Christianity or are studying early modern Europe.

The volume consists of three sections. In the first Part three essays reflect historical and philosophical issues before the Synod of Dort. Part Two explores aspects of the Synod of Dort itself. The focus in Part Three is on the reception of the Synod of Dort. Finally, the following question is answered: How were the Canons of Dort regarded in the 17th–19th century, and what does the history of their editions tell us?

The editor, Frank van der Pol, was the program leader of the combined research group Early Modern Reformed Theology (EMRT) of the theological universities Apeldoorn and Kampen. In cooperation with the A Lasco Bibliothek Emden the EMRT organized an international conference on Oct. 29 and 30, 2014 about the doctrine of election in reformed perspective. The research group is convinced that the dual line of research on history and theology of the Reformation tradition must continue and be strengthened. On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort, the researchers, wanting to do their work in a broader context with a wider dialogue, make their proceedings accessible for more people and institutes by publishing them in this volume.

A Whole Raft of New Books from V&R

Visit the publisher’s website and see all the info:

  • Casey B. Carmichael
    A Continental View: Johannes Cocceius’s Federal Theology of the Sabbath
    Reformed Historical Theology 41
    ISBN 13: 978-3-525-55278-0

Carmichael explores the origin of the debates among the Reformed over the question of the Sabbath, which reached a high point in the theology of Johannes Cocceius—one of the most significant and controversial Protestant theologians of the seventeenth century.

  • Frank van der Pol
    The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective
    Refo500 Academic Studies (R5AS) 51
    ISBN 13: 978-3-525-57070-8

On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort (1618–19) researchers reflect in eleven essays the doctrine of election with special focus on this synod by the Dutch Reformed Church.

  • Jon D. Wood
    Reforming Priesthood in Reformation Zurich
    Reformed Historical Theology 54
    ISBN 13: 978-3-525-57092-0

How did Heinrich Bullinger’s End-Times idiom entail a Protestant reclamation of clerical priesthood? Jon Wood takes his readers along to sixteenth-century Zurich and explores the changing clerical identity.

  • Judith Lena Böttcher
    Vowed to Community or Ordained to Mission?
    Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte 114
    ISBN 13: 978-3-525-55263-6

Judith Böttcher offers an overdue exploration of the early years of the deaconess community in Neuendettelsau from a gender perspective. Drawing on rich archival material, she focuses on the process of a distinctive collective identity.

  • Katalin Péter
    Studies on the History of the Reformation in Hungary and Transylvania
    Refo500 Academic Studies (R5AS) 45
    ISBN 13: 978-3-525-55271-1

Katalin Péter offers a new narrative of the social dynamics in divided Hungary during the time of early Protestant Reformation. She presents common men and women as the agents of religious change.

  • Jae-Eun Park
    Driven by God
    Reformed Historical Theology 46
    ISBN 13: 978-3-525-55284-1

Jae-Eun Park shows the parallelism of the twin concepts of active justification and definitive sanctification, and provides a solid footing for viewing salvation as entirely God-driven and not human-driven.

  • Mark Jones, Michael A. G. Haykin
    A New Divinity
    Reformed Historical Theology 49
    ISBN 13: 978-3-525-55285-8

The contributions highlight theological debates that took place during the “Long Eighteenth Century” among Reformed theologians, dealing with examples from different countries and decades.

  • Kai-Ole Eberhardt
    Christoph Wittich (1625–1687)
    Reformed Historical Theology 47
    ISBN 13: 978-3-525-55283-4

Christoph Wittich, dessen Leben und Werk Kai-Ole Eberhardt hier untersucht, rezipiert und verteidigt als reformierter Theologieprofessor den Cartesianismus gegen Widerstände aus Universität und Kirche und sucht diesen mit einer reformiert-orthodoxen Theologie zu verbinden.

  • B. Hoon Woo
    The Promise of the Trinity
    Reformed Historical Theology 48
    ISBN 13: 978-3-525-55281-0

B. Hoon Woo supplements and corrects previous studies on the Reformed doctrine of the pactum salutis. He gives satisfactory answers to modern criticisms of the doctrine and also shows that the doctrine includes very highly useful implications in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity, Christology, Pneumatology, and soteriology.

Der »Kritisch-exegetische Kommentar« in seiner Geschichte

Der Kritisch-exegetische Kommentar zum Neuen Testament (KEK) wurde von Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer im Jahr 1829 begründet. Bis heute wird dieser Kommentar noch unter dessen Namen als »Meyers Kommentar« geführt. Das Kommentarwerk bietet zunächst ausschließlich von Meyer, später dann von seinen Mitarbeitern, bald dann von Mitgliedern der Religionsgeschichtlichen Schule und der Dialektischen Theologie bis heute in 16 Abteilungen grundlegende Kommentare zur Auslegung der neutestamentlichen Schriften. Theologisch bewegt sich das Kommentarwerk in Korrespondenz zur jeweiligen Theologiegeschichte (Rationalismus, Philologie, Religionsgeschichte, Kerygmatheologie). Kennzeichen des Kommentarwerks ist jedoch eine sich durchhaltende philologische und religionsgeschichtliche Akzentuierung. Unter den Kommentaren, die stets nur auf einen einzigen Band zu einer Schrift festgelegt waren, befinden sich theologische Meisterwerke wie Rudolf Bultmanns Kommentar zum Johannesevangelium oder wie Wilhelm Boussets Kommentar zur Johannesoffenbarung. Das vorliegende Werk zeichnet die Geschichte des KEK, seiner Autoren und seiner Beziehung zum Verlagshaus Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht von seinen Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart nach und bespricht die wechselvolle Auslegung der neutestamentlichen Schriften.

This volume is available in North America from ISD.

I love this book. I love everything about it. I love the introductory section, with its important and engaging biography of Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, the founder and grand designer of the commentary series which is here celebrated in a glorious historical survey. I love the chapter by Arndt Ruprecht, of the famous V&R publishing house, and his description of how this series came to life and the Publisher’s part in that process.

The second segment of the book, the largest part, is a historical survey of the various volumes which have appeared in KEK NT edited by Meyer.

The third segment of the volume is an ‘appendix’ – though much more than merely that – which provides readers with what can best be characterized as a Reception-History of the series and its manifestation in both German and English editions.

The final segment of the ‘appendix’ is a series of plates which feature both leading persons and facsimiles of pages from the various commentaries which have appeared in the series. Two of those plates are especially noteworthy:

So much for the format of the volume- but what of the substance of the work? It is a historical study as implied above. Moreover, it is a historical examination of one of the most important commentaries in the history of New Testament exegesis.

Allow me to illustrate the method of the volume by making reference to the Romans Commentary. Michael Theobold is the scholar assigned the task of surveying the various incarnations and editions of the examination of Paul’s letter to the Romans. To do so he surveys the chief viewpoints of the Commentary’s authors, he surveys the various interpretations of the ‘Gattung und Aufbau, Veranlassung und Zweck’ of the letter to the Romans as those are made plain in the various editions. And then he turns to how the various editions have dealt with the more difficult questions raised by crux passages in Romans and the interpretation of Romans through the decades of the commentary’s life. And finally, he looks forward to potential issues that future editions will need to address.

Mind you, however, that this approach is not applied ‘cookie cutter’ style to each of the New Testament commentaries discussed in this volume. Rather, the subject matter and issues of each volume are the starting point for the historical analysis of each work.

The chief accomplishment, then, of this book is that it provides in one handy place a well reasoned ‘history of New Testament scholarship’ or how New Testament scholars have addressed different issues that have arisen in the examination and exposition of the New Testament texts since the beginning of critical scholarship.

I love this book not only because it’s interesting, but because it’s informative. It is well written. It is glorious. It is, as a consequence, highly recommended.

From Wittenberg to the World

Details here.

978-3-525-53126-6_600x600New publication at Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in the R5AS Series: From Wittenberg to the World. Essays on the Reformation and its Legacy in Honor of Robert Kolb, Charles Arand/Erik H. Herrmann/Daniel L. Mattson (eds.).

The book honours the Rev. Dr. Robert A Kolb, retired Director of the Institute for Mission Studies and Missions Professor in systematic theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and perhaps the leading authority on the development of “Wittenberg Theology” in the English-speaking world. At the same time, his teaching and writing, which continues without flagging, has emphasized the importance of translating and retranslating the historic Lutheran faith in terms that address contemporary issues and contemporary people. In this volume, colleagues and co-workers address and push forward Kolb insights into the history of the Reformation era and on the impact of those Reformation issues (and quarrels) on the life of the church in the world today.

With contributions by Charles Arand, L’ubomir Batka, Amy Nelson Burnett, Irene Dingel, Mary Jane Haemig, Scott Hendrix, Erik Herrmann, Werner Klän, David Lumpp, Mark Mattes, Daniel Mattson, Richard Muller, Paul Robinson, Robert Rosin, and Timothy Wengert.

See the contents here.

Readers are urged to consult the link immediately above where the table of contents and front matter are available.  Doing so permits you to see at a glance the great span of interesting essays which make up this very fine celebration of a very fine scholar’s work.

Robert Kolb began his scholarly career in 1968 and the vast array of publications he authored attest to his influence.  The bibliography the editors of the present work provide begins on page 327 and it is so extensive that it continues through page 355.  That’s twenty-eight pages!  That’s hundreds and hundreds of published works!  Kolb’s output is simply astonishing.  By contrast, my own bibliography is eight pages.  So Kolb has made me feel quite lazy and inadequate.

By the time he is finally done publishing on the subject of the Reformation his bibliography may well be in the 50 page range.

The contributors to this useful volume are also quite an impressive group.  Superstars in the field of Reformation research such as Amy Nelson Burnett, Scott Hendrix, Erik Herrmann, Richard Muller, Timothy Wengert and Irene Dingel all combine to make this gathering of essays very informative and educational.  This volume is indeed a very worthy addition to the prestigious Refo500 Academic Studies series published by Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

The essays which the present reviewer found to be the most engaging were those of Wengert and Dingel, along with Burnett’s.  These three are superb while the remaining essays are all very good.  Special mention should also be made of Mattson’s enjoyable ‘What Did Luther Know about Islam and Why Did He Want to Know It?’  It is both informative and timely.

I recommend this volume.  Readers will enjoy it.  I promise.  And furthermore, I offer the following assurance:  you will enjoy this volume as much as fans of the Harry Potter books enjoy them and even more than that, you will learn about actual things instead of about make believe pretendings.  If not, I will happily allow you a rebuttal here.

Das erste Buch Mose: Genesis

This is definitely worth checking out.

Die biblische Urgeschichte bedenkt die Entstehung der Welt und ihrer Ordnung, das Woher des Menschen und die Ursprünge der Kultur. Sie ist Ausdruck für die in antiken Kulturen weitverbreitete und nach dem damaligen naturkundlichen Kenntnisstand durchdeklinierte Grundüberzeugung, dass alles Gegenwärtige und alles Zukünftige sein Wesen im Anfang erhalten hat. In diesem Sinne bietet die biblische Urgeschichte weniger eine Erklärung der Entstehung der Welt, sondern ist in erster Linie ein Versuch, die Erfahrung des Menschen mit sich und seiner Umwelt deutend zu verstehen. Im Zentrum dieses Nachdenkens in beispielhaften Erzählungen, zu denen sich naturkundliche, genealogische und geographische Ausführungen gesellen, steht der Mensch in seinen vielfältigen Beziehungen zum Mitmenschen, zur nichtmenschlichen Schöpfung und zu Gott.

Jan Christian Gertz legt mit seinem Werk eine neue Kommentierung der Urgeschichte vor, deren Erzählungen von Adam und Eva, Kain und Abel, der Arche Noach und dem Turmbau zu Babel wie wenige andere Literaturwerke unser Selbst- und Weltbild geprägt haben. Der Kommentar bietet Lesern und Leserinnen innerhalb wie außerhalb des Faches eine klar verständliche Synthese der bisherigen Forschung und stellt die Urgeschichte in den Kontext der Literaturen des alten Vorderen Orients. Die Neubearbeitung der Kommentierung der biblischen Urgeschichte für das Alte Testament Deutsch folgt derjenigen durch Gerhard von Rad aus dem Jahre 1949, deren letzte Überarbeitung 1972 erschienen ist.

With the writing of commentaries there is no end. And there is no end to the various interpretative moves commentators make in order to help their work stand out from the crowd.

The present commentary is no exception. Naturally, then, potential readers, the intended audience of this review, will want to know if this work is yet another in a long line of commentaries that repeat in a different way the same information. The answer is no. It is more than that.

To begin with, the introductory sections provide up to date information concerning sources and text editions, grammars and lexica, commentaries, and monographs and collections of essays; all related to Genesis 1-11.

The introductory chapter focuses on the contents of Genesis 1-11 and the importance of the ‘Urgeschichte’ in the context of the entirety of Genesis. Also of concern to the author of the commentary are the priestly and non priestly materials found in Gen 1-11.

Following these introductory matters, the commentary proper begins. Each pericope is treated individually and in canonical order. Each is also examined within its larger context, ‘Aufbau’, and ‘Enstehung’. These sections are noted in the margins of the page, so finding one’s place or interest is quite simple to achieve. Then follows the exegesis, by sense unit (i.e., sometimes a verse, sometimes several verses) proper.

Each user of every commentary has a section of a biblical text of particular interest and when examining new commentaries invariably turn to that passage to measure the new work against others. For the present reviewer, Genesis 9:18ff. Ever since encountering Gerhard von Rad’s treatment of the passage it has been a source of enduring fascination. What happened? Why the curse? It’s all so, on the surface, quite strange (like Exodus 4 and Yahweh’s attempted murder of Moses).

So how does Gertz ‘handle’ the problem text? Examining that question allows me to offer examples both of Gertz’s exegesis and his style of presentation. Accordingly, G. opines

Der Höhepunkt der Handlung ist vom unterschiedlichen Verhalten der 9, 22-24
Söhne gegenüber ihrem betrunkenen Vater und dessen harscher Reaktion geprägt. Ham sieht die Scham seines Vaters und lässt sich darüber vor seinen Brüdern aus, diese reagieren jedoch mit Respekt und bedecken den Vater, ohne ihn anzusehen. Dieser wiederum verflucht Hams Sohn Kanaan und segnet Sem und Jafet. Fluch und Segen zeigen deutlich, dass die Söhne Noachs und sein Enkel Kanaan weniger als Familienmitglieder denn als Repräsentanten von Volksgruppen zu verstehen sind. Ham, der Vater Kanaans, steht Sem, dem Vorfahren Israels (vgl. Gen 11,10-26), und Jafet gegenüber. Auch zwischen den beiden gesegneten Brüdern wird ein feiner Unterschied aufgemacht, insofern der singularische Auftakt von V. 23 „da nahm Sem und Jafet“ vor der pluralischen Fortsetzung „und sie legten“ andeutet, dass die Initiative bei dem an erster Stelle genannten Sem gelegen hat.

And then a bit further down:

Besonders prominent ist in diesem Zusammenhang die Erzählung von Lots Töchtern, die ihren Vater betrunken machen, um von ihm schwanger zu werden (Gen 19, 30-38). So hat man in dem Vergehen einen Inzest mit der (nicht erwähnten!) Frau des Vaters vermutet, was in Lev 20,11 als „Aufdecken der Scham des Vaters“ bezeichnet wird. Andere denken an einen inzestuös-homosexuellen Missbrauch des Vaters durch Ham. Schon die Rabbinen haben diskutiert, ob Ham seinen Vater kastriert oder vergewaltigt hat.

With incredible skill, Gertz connects the dots between various passages and shows how the earlier lay the foundation for the understanding and intention of the later. And he also shows how the text has been received and interpreted. Exegesis and Reception History are intertwined in this present work, and that brilliantly.

Gertz furthermore observes

Ham ließe sich nicht einmal der Vorwurf machen, er habe den Vater betrunken gemacht, um „seine Scham zu sehen“ (vgl. Hab 2, 15). Gleichwohl führt der Hinweis auf die Inzestverbote und die sexuelle Konnotation des verwendeten Vokabulars in die richtige Richtung.

And drawing it all together,

Damit wird wie mit den folgenden Fluch- und Segenssprüchen ein neuer Ton in der biblischen Urgeschichte angeschlagen: Die Episode mag auf den ersten Blick wie eine narrative Umsetzung der im Epilog der Sintflut formulierten Einsicht in den bleibenden Hang des Menschen zum Bösen wirken. Bei genauerer Betrachtung hebt sie sich aber recht deutlich von ihrem Vorkontext ab, indem sie die anthropologischen Aussagen der Sintfluterzählung in Urteile über abgrenzbare soziale Größen überführt und auf eine nach Fluch und Segen differenzierte Menschheit aufteilt. Die Konsequenz daraus ist, dass aus dem Hang des Menschen zum Bösen diejenige Einzeltat wird, deren Folge die Fluchexistenz Kanaans ist, womit die stereotype Beschreibung der Kanaanäer in der Mehrzahl alttestamentlicher Texte ihre urgeschichtliche Begründung erhält.

Gertz works in this manner throughout. He draws together materials from numerous sources and uses those materials to shed light on the pericopae of Gen 1-11. Though technical, this commentary is exceedingly clear and precise. Students of Genesis will find in it a veritable goldmine of exegetical insight. It doesn’t merely repeat what’s been said before elsewhere, it says something wise.

Tolle, lege.

Reformed Protestantism in the 20th Century

Book tip

Eine Geschichte des reformierten Protestantismus in Deutschland im 20. Jahrhunderts ist bisher nicht erschienen. Sie ist ein dringendes Desiderat, da die Reformierten in der Erforschung der neueren Kirchengeschichte wenig Beachtung finden, obwohl sie immer wieder besondere Facetten und Nuancen innerhalb des Protestantismus darstellten. Dass Reformierte sich als Minderheitenkonfession zumeist marginalisiert empfunden und ein entsprechendes Selbstverständnis geradezu habituell gepflegt haben, ist ein mitlaufender Untersuchungsgegenstand der Beiträge dieses Bandes. Sie behandeln repräsentative Personen (Theologen, Kirchenfunktionäre, aber auch eine Gemeindeschwester), Regionen und Milieus, charakteristische Themen, Zeitabschnitte wie den Ersten Weltkrieg und den Kirchenkampf, herausragende Jahre wie auch Jubiläen, in denen sich das Selbstverständnis der Reformierten manifestierte.

Diese Studien zur Kirchlichen Zeitgeschichte wollen ergänzende Beiträge für die Kirchengeschichtsschreibung sein sowie innerhalb des reformierten Protestantismus zum selbstkritischen Rückblick verhelfen. Sie sind der Versuch einer Konfessionsgeschichte, die nicht einengt, sondern ergänzt und vertieft. Sie sind aus einer affirmativen Perspektive verfasst, sind aber weder apologetisch noch polemisch, sondern kritisch und dekonstruierend intendiert, sie sind wissenschaftlich zu verantworten und stellen gleichzeitig einen Beitrag zur konfessionellen Erinnerungskultur dar.


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.

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.


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.


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 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.