"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Oxford Handbook of the Trinity in Paperback

In late 2011, when it first emerged in hardback, I interviewed editors Matthew Levering and Gilles Emery about their splendid new collection The Oxford Handbook of the Trinity. That edition is packed with riches, including numerous articles by Orthodox scholars and treating Eastern realities, which perhaps goes some way to explaining its hefty price. But for those of you wishing an edition both lighter in your bookbag and on your wallet, you need only wait a few more months. Oxford UP tells me that a paperback is forthcoming this summer (likely July), and will be less than half the hardback, probably around $42.

About this book we are told:
This handbook examines the history of Trinitarian theology and reveals the Nicene unity still at work among Christians today despite ecumenical differences and the variety of theological perspectives. The forty-three chapters are organized into the following seven parts: the Trinity in Scripture, Patristic witnesses to the Trinitarian faith, Medieval appropriations of the Trinitarian faith, the Reformation through to the 20th Century, Trinitarian Dogmatics, the Trinity and Christian life, and Dialogues (addressing ecumenical, interreligious, and cultural interactions).

The phrase 'Trinitarian faith' can hardly be understood outside of reference to the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople and to their reception: the doctrine of the Trinity is indissociably connected to the reading of Scripture through the ecclesial and theological traditions. The modern period is characterized especially by the arrival of history, under two principal aspects: 'historical theology' and 'philosophies of history'. In contemporary theology, the principal 'theological loci' are Trinity and creation, Trinity and grace, Trinity and monotheism, Trinity and human life (ethics, society, politics and culture), and more broadly Trinity and history. In all these areas, this handbook offers essays that do justice to the diversity of view points, while also providing, insofar as possible, a coherent ensemble.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Russian History

With all the recent focus on and discussion of Russia, including of course its annexation of Crimea and continued threats to Ukraine, a recent volume helpfully provides a much wider picture of Russian history, including chapters on the relationship to the Byzantine empire, and the development of (and schisms within) what we today call the Russian Orthodox Church, this latter article being written by Nadieszda Kizenko: Abbott Gleason, ed., A Companion to Russian History (Wiley Blackwell, 2014), 568pp.

About this book we are told:
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, substantial changes have transformed the way historians have interpreted Russia’s past. This companion provides an overview of Russian history, from the earliest appearance of the Slavs in history to the present day. It features 28 provocative essays written by both prominent and emerging international scholars covering major problems in Russia's history.
The book is structured chronologically, yet reflects the weight of interest in Russia’s recent history by giving its greatest coverage to the twentieth century. It offers a balanced review of both traditional and cutting-edge topics, demonstrating the range and dynamism of the field.

This companion comprises 28 essays by international scholars offering an analytical overview of the development of Russian history from the earliest Slavs through to the present day.
  • Includes essays by both prominent and emerging scholars from Russia, Great Britain, the US, and Canada
  • Analyzes the entire sweep of Russian history from debates over how to identify the earliest Slavs, through the Yeltsin Era, and future prospects for post-Soviet Russia
  • Offers an extensive review of the medieval period, religion, culture, and the experiences of ordinary people
  • Offers a balanced review of both traditional and cutting-edge topics, demonstrating the range and dynamism of the field

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Religion and the Arts

I'm looking forward this fall to being able to teach my course on iconography again after several years. As I noted earlier this year, there has been an explosion in books about iconoclasm (another of which I discussed elsewhere) and I'm keen to assign at least one or two of them to read with my students. For those desirous of a more global picture of the relationship between religion and art, a new handbook would seem ideal: Frank Burch Brown, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts (Oxford UP, 2014), 564pp.

About this collection we are told:
Nearly every form of religion or spirituality has a vital connection with art. Religions across the world, from Hinduism and Buddhism to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, have been involved over the centuries with a rich array of artistic traditions, both sacred and secular. In its uniquely multi-dimensional consideration of the topic, The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts provides expert guidance to artistry and aesthetic theory in religion.

The Handbook offers nearly forty original essays by an international team of leading scholars on the main topics, issues, methods, and resources for the study of religious and theological aesthetics. The volume ranges from antiquity to the present day to examine religious and artistic imagination, fears of idolatry, aesthetics in worship, and the role of art in social transformation and in popular religion-covering a full array of forms of media, from music and poetry to architecture and film.

An authoritative text for scholars and students, The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts will remain an invaluable resource for years to come.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Russian Orthodox Notions of Human Rights

Given the events in Russia and Ukraine recently, especially the annexation by the former of territory belonging to the latter, and given recent chatter, especially during the Sochi Olympics, about so-called gay rights in Russia, the question of human rights more broadly within Russia has been raised a lot lately.Of even more particular interest is the relationship of ideas about rights to Orthodox theology, which is a new field currently being developed, including in an article in the upcoming spring issue of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, as I noted here.

The following book, then, published just this month, is very timely indeed: Kristina Stoeckl, The Russian Orthodox Church and Human Rights (Routledge, 2014), 170p. 

About this book we are told:
This book examines the key 2008 publication of the Russian Orthodox Church on human dignity, freedom, and rights. It considers how the document was formed, charting the development over time of the Russian Orthodox Church’s views on these issues. It analyses the detail of the document, and assesses the practical and political impact inside the Church, at the national level and in the international arena. Overall, it shows how the attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church has shifted from outright hostility towards individual human rights to the advocacy of "traditional values," though often projecting a more moderate face internationally, whilst taking a hard line within Russia itself.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Byzantine Theotokos

On this lovely feast of the Annunciation, I draw your attention to a forthcoming paperback version (=much more affordable!) of an important collection published a few years back and favorably reviewed by us in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies: Bissera Pentcheva, Icons and Power: The Mother of God in Byzantium (Penn State, 2014), 312pp. 

About this book we are told:
The Virgin Mary embodied power rather than maternal tenderness in the Byzantine world. Known as the Mother of God, she became a guarantor of military victory and hence of imperial authority. In this pioneering book, Bissera Pentcheva connects the fusion of Marian cult and imperial rule with the powers assigned to images of this All Holy woman.
Drawing upon a wide range of sources and images, from coins and seals to monumental mosaics, Pentcheva demonstrates that a fundamental shift in Byzantine cult—from relics to icons—took place during the late tenth century. Further, she shows that processions through the city of Constantinople provided the context in which Marian icons emerged as centerpieces of imperial claims to divine protection.
Pentcheva breaks new ground, contending that devotion to Marian icons should be considered a much later development than is generally assumed. This new perspective has important implications not only for the history of imperial ritual but also for understanding the creation of new Marian iconography during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Centered upon fundamental questions of art, religion, and politics, Icons and Power makes a vital contribution to the entire field of medieval studies. It will be of interest as well to all those concerned with the cult of Mary in the Christian traditions of the East and West.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Fantasy of Reunion?

Three years ago, when angels wept with joy and mortal flesh kept silent at the appearance of my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity, a few people suggested--including those who helpfully didn't bother to read it--that my book was simply promoting a "fantasy" and that Orthodox-Catholic unity would never happen, or at least not in my lifetime nor several generations after me. This language of fantasy is not new, as a book to be published next month makes clear: Mark D. Chapman, The Fantasy of Reunion: Anglicans, Catholics, and Ecumenism, 1833-1882 (OUP, 2014), 316pp.

About this book we are told:
This book discusses the different understandings of 'catholicity' that emerged in the interactions between the Church of England and other churches - particularly the Roman Catholic Church and later the Old Catholic Churches - from the early 1830s to the early 1880s. It presents a pre-history of ecumenism, which isolates some of the most distinctive features of the ecclesiological positions of the different churches as these developed through the turmoil of the nineteenth century. It explores the historical imagination of a range of churchmen and theologians, who sought to reconstruct their churches through an encounter with the past whose relevance for the construction of identity in the present went unquestioned. The past was no foreign country but instead provided solutions to the perceived dangers facing the church of the present. Key protagonists are John Henry Newman and Edward Bouverie Pusey, the leaders of the Oxford Movement, as well as a number of other less well-known figures who made their distinctive mark on the relations between the churches. The key event in reshaping the terms of the debates between the churches was the Vatican Council of 1870, which put an end to serious dialogue for a very long period, but which opened up new avenues for the Church of England and other non-Roman European churches including the Orthodox. In the end, however, ecumenism was halted in the 1880s by an increasingly complex European situation and an energetic expansion of the British Empire, which saw the rise of Pan-Anglicanism at the expense of ecumenism.

Friday, March 21, 2014

LOGOS: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies: Spring 2014 Issue

Further to my note last week, I'm delighted to be able to give details of the spring issue of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. It contains fascinating articles in areas we have not published before, especially Coptic-Muslim relations and Orthodox understandings of human rights. But permit me to point out in particular two of the long review essays noted below, which I think are in themselves worth the price of a subscription if, through some unimaginable oversight, you have not yet managed to subscribe.

We seem to be at a point, at least in anglophone scholarship, of a burgeoning number of studies on Sergius Bulgakov now that most of his opera has been translated into English. Logos has published several in the last three years, and we have several more currently out for review, which may be accepted for publication in the autumn of this year and spring of next year. In this upcoming issue we begin, among the juried articles, with Stefan Barbu's essay “Orthodox Ecclesiology in Sophianic Key.”

This is followed by a fascinating article by Jason Welle, OFM, “The Status of Monks in Egypt under Early Mamlūk Rule: The Case of Ibn Taymiyya.” The article contains not only original research and analysis, but also annotated translation of Ibn Taymiyya’s Fatwā on the Status of Monks.

Finally, a longer version of a presentation I originally heard in part in 2012 at St. Vladimir's Seminary and the annual meeting of the Orthodox Theological Society of America: Christopher Brenna, “The Transfiguration of Rights: A Proposal for Orthodoxy’s Appropriation of Rights Language.” This article breaks new ground, as the whole discussion of rights in Orthodoxy is a very recent and in some ways still inchoate phenomenon.

Among the shorter pieces we are running are three, beginning with a recent presentation of Michael Plekon at a conference in Strasbourg on "Saints Without Borders." Fr. Michael's paper is entitled “Mother Maria Skobtsova: Making a Saint in the Eastern Church Today.”

Bishop Hlib Lonchyna has a short piece on Ukrainian Catholic Identity in Britain Today, ending with some thoughts on the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church's recent 10-year plan for parish revitalization.

Richard Armstrong helpfully reviews the literature and brings us up to date on "Cyril of Jerusalem (c.313-387): an Ecclesiastical Career in Review."

Finally, last fall, Josiah Trenham gave a lecture in Ottawa at the Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, "St. John Chrysostom for the 21st Century."

Book Reviews:

Review Essays:
This section contains three of the most impressive (and longest) review essays we have ever run. Robert Slesinski spends a great deal of time analyzing Dominic Rubin's Holy Russia, Sacred Israel: Jewish-Christian Encounters in Russian Religious Thought. Slesinski very carefully examines the evidence in Rubin's text, and compares it in many cases to the Russian originals, some of which Slesinski re-translates, showing how and where Rubin's analysis is correct, and where, in a few places, it overlooks other evidence or offers perhaps too harsh an interpretation. The essay is a model of how to do careful scholarship on explosive topics (anti-Semitism, Russian nationalism): serenely, objectively, charitably.

ii) Another outstanding model of scholarly engagement comes in a very lengthy review essay authored by Christiaan Kappes, J. Isaac Coff, and T. Alexander Giltner treating the place of Palamas in the history of philosophy and East-West encounters, especially in the hands of David Bradshaw, not only in his 2007 book Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom but more recently in his essay in the collection Divine Essence and Divine Energies: Ecumenical Reflections on the Presence of God in Eastern Orthodoxy. Kappes et al review the entire latter book, but concentrate on Bradshaw as well as John Milbank, showing the good points in their work but also showing how and where they overlook a good deal, are unjustly tendentious in places, and fail in others to make necessary distinctions or to trace out lineages that would upset their preformed ideas of intellectual history. The essay is not easy to summarize, but here are a few choice ideas to whet your appetite:   
  • contra the usual interpretation, Thomas, Bonaventure, and Scotus, far from being horrid old Western "rationalists" in contradistinction to the supposed "mystics" of the East, are in fact deeply grounded in Greek patristic thought;
  • the role of Augustine in shaping the Palamite tradition is very considerable, but completely ignored in Divine Essence and Divine Energies;
  • Mark of Ephesus, far from being the trumpet of anti-Latin theology, is heavily indebted to Augustine and the Scholastics;
  • Franciscans like Bonaventure and Scotus "accessed important early Eastern sources, particularly through the Carolingian thinker and translator Eriugena, and, moreover, greatly utilized them....One may legitimately wonder how such a cornucopia of sources and incredible parallels have been bypassed";
  • in the end, we are still awaiting a full, impartial intellectual geneology of Palamas and Palamite thought that will, inter alia, take account of the fact that "Palamas gave Augustine's opera in Greek an authoritative 'nihil obstat' for Byzantines" and thus "ushered into Byzantium a synthetic project of harmonizing Latin authors (especially Augustine and Aquinas) with Byzantine theology and Orthodoxy." Yet little of this remains understood, even by scholars, never mind Orthodox bloggers ranting about the pernicious effects of Aquinas and Augustine and Anselm and other figures they have never read, least of all in the original.

iii) Slesinski’s Review Essay on Bulgakov. Reviewing the "major trilogy" of Bulgakov's works which has recently appeared in English over the last decade, that is, the works The Lamb of God, The Bride of the Lamb and The Comforter, Slesinski in fact teases out of these three works their underlying theology of the "first hypostasis," God the Father. Far from ignoring the Father in works ostensibly devoted to Christ, Christ's Church, and the Holy Spirit, Bulgakov in fact has woven throughout all three volumes the theme of the "monarchy of the Father."

Regular Reviews:

Having recently read, and commented elsewhere on, this book, let me second our reviewer's judgment that this is a very substantial, deeply challenging, and very important book. If you have any interest in the topics of icons and iconoclasm, and more generally the relation between theology and art not only in the ancient period, but also today, you will want to get a copy of this book, the expense notwithstanding.

c) Radu Bordeianu reviews Boris Bobrinskoy’s The Mystery of the Church: A Course in Orthodox Dogmatic Theology

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Between Constantinople and Rome

Set for publication at the end of this month is a new book looking at one of the most outstanding of most ancient manuscripts: Kathleen Maxwell, Between Constantinople and Rome: An Illuminated Byzantine Gospel Book (Paris Gr. 54) and the Union of Churches (Ashgate, 2014), 348pp.

About this book we are told:
This is a study of the artistic and political context that led to the production of a truly exceptional Byzantine illustrated manuscript. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, codex grec 54 is one of the most ambitious and complex manuscripts produced during the Byzantine era. This thirteenth-century Greek and Latin Gospel book features full-page evangelist portraits, an extensive narrative cycle, and unique polychromatic texts. However, it has never been the subject of a comprehensive study and the circumstances of its commission are unknown. In this book Kathleen Maxwell addresses the following questions: what circumstances led to the creation of Paris 54? Who commissioned it and for what purpose? How was a deluxe manuscript such as this produced? Why was it left unfinished? How does it relate to other Byzantine illustrated Gospel books?Paris 54's innovations are a testament to the extraordinary circumstances of its commission. Maxwell's multi-disciplinary approach includes codicological and paleographical evidence together with New Testament textual criticism, artistic and historical analysis. She concludes that Paris 54 was never intended to copy any other manuscript. Rather, it was designed to eclipse its contemporaries and to physically embody a new relationship between Constantinople and the Latin West, as envisioned by its patron. Analysis of Paris 54's texts and miniature cycle indicates that it was created at the behest of a Byzantine emperor as a gift to a pope, in conjunction with imperial efforts to unify the Latin and Orthodox churches. As such, Paris 54 is a unique witness to early Palaeologan attempts to achieve church union with Rome.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Holy Ecology

For many years now, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has been nicknamed the "green patriarch" for his outspoken stances on ecological issues. Many recent books have been published in recent years on Orthodox theology and ecological concerns, including this recent one:  Bruce V. Foltz, The Noetics of Nature: Environmental Philosophy and the Holy Beauty of the Visible (Fordham, 2013), 320pp.

About this book we are told:
Contemplative or "noetic" knowledge has traditionally been seen as the highest mode of understanding, a view that persists both in many non-Western cultures and in Eastern Christianity, where "theoria physike," or the illumined understanding of creation that follows the purification of the heart, is seen to provide deeper insights into nature than the discursive rationality modernity has used to dominate and conquer it.

Working from texts in Eastern Orthodox philosophy and theology not widely known in the West, as well as a variety of sources including mystics such as the Sufi Ibn 'Arabi, poets such as Basho, Traherne, Blake, Hölderlin, and Hopkins, and nature writers such as Muir, Thoreau, and Dillard, The Noetics of Nature challenges both the primacy of the natural sciences in environmental thought and the conventional view, first advanced by Lynn White, Jr., that Christian theology is somehow responsible for the environmental crisis.

Instead, Foltz concludes that the ancient Christian view of creation as iconic its "holy beauty" manifesting the divine energies and constituting a primal mode of divine revelation offers the best prospect for the radical reversal that is needed in our relation to the natural environment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Quran and the Gospels

Emerging scholarship has been suggesting more and more that there are deep links between early Islamic literature and extant Christian literature, especially that of the gospels. Two new books deepen our understanding of this: Emran El-Badawi, The Qur'an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions (Routledge, 2013). You can read an interview with the author here.

About this book we are told:
This book is a study of related passages found in the Arabic Qur’an and the Aramaic Gospels, i.e. the Gospels preserved in the Syriac and Christian Palestinian Aramaic dialects. It builds upon the work of traditional Muslim scholars, including al-Biqa‘i (d. ca. 808/1460) and al-Suyu?i (d. 911/1505), who wrote books examining connections between the Qur’an on the one hand, and Biblical passages and Aramaic terminology on the other, as well as modern western scholars, including Sidney Griffith who argue that pre-Islamic Arabs accessed the Bible in Aramaic.

The Qur’an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions examines the history of religious movements in the Middle East from 180-632 CE, explaining Islam as a response to the disunity of the Aramaic speaking churches. It then compares the Arabic text of the Qur’an and the Aramaic text of the Gospels under four main themes: the prophets; the clergy; the divine; and the apocalypse. Among the findings of this book are that the articulator as well as audience of the Qur’an were monotheistic in origin, probably bilingual, culturally sophisticated and accustomed to the theological debates that raged between the Aramaic speaking churches. Arguing that the Qur’an’s teachings and ethics echo Jewish-Christian conservatism, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of Religion, History, and Literature.
The publisher also provides the table of contents:
1 Sources and Method 2 Prophetic Tradition in the Late Antique Near East 3 Prophets and their Righteous Entourage 4 The Evils of the Clergy 5 The Divine Realm 6 Divine Judgement and the Apocalypse 7 Data Analysis and Conclusion
Also published in December by Routledge is a second book along a similar though more personally focused theme: Hosn Abboud, Mary in the Qur'an: A Literary Reading (Routledge, 2013). 

About this book we are told:

Providing an analysis of the complete story of Mary in its liturgical, narrative and rhetorical contexts, this literary reading is a prerequisite to any textual reading of the Qur’an whether juristic, theological, or otherwise. The Qur’an is an oral event, linguistic phenomenon and great literature. So the application of modern literary theories is essential to have full comprehension of the history of the development of literary forms from pre-Islamic period such as poetry, story telling, speech-giving to the present. In addition, there is a need, from a feminist perspective, to understand in depth why a Christian mother figure such as Mary was important in early Islam and in the different stages of the development of the Qur’an as a communication process between Muhammad and the early Muslim community. Introducing modern literary theories, gender perspective and feminist criticism into Qur’anic scholarship for the first time, this book will be an invaluable resource for scholars and researchers of Islamic Studies, Qur’anic and New Testament Studies, Comparative Literature and Feminist Theology.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Nationalism in Greece and Beyond

I have long been fascinated by the role of nationalism in shaping, and often (but not always) in perverting Christianity, especially in the East. It has, of course, become a rather commonplace lament in the East for more than a century that too much of Orthodoxy is too bound up with ethnophyletism. Though that problem in places is perhaps not as pronounced as it once was, it does still continue to bedevil the Christian East in more ways than one. A recent book looks at the politics of nationalism in an Hellenic context:  Rachel Tsang and Eric Taylor Woods, eds.,The Cultural Politics of Nationalism and Nation-Building: Ritual and Performance in the Forging of Nations (Routledge, 2013), 216pp.

About this book we are told:

Rituals and performances are a key theme in the study of nations and nationalism. With the aim of stimulating further research in this area, this book explores, debates and evaluates the role of rituals and performances in the emergence, persistence and transformation of nations, nationalisms and national identity.
The chapters comprising this book investigate a diverse array of contemporary and historical phenomena relating to the symbolic life of nations, from the Yasukuni Shrine in Japan to the Louvre in France, written by an interdisciplinary cast of world-renowned and up-and-coming scholars. Each of the contributors has been encouraged to think about how his or her particular approach and methods relates to the others. This has given rise to several recurring debates and themes running through the book over how researchers ought to approach rituals and performances and how they might best be studied.
The Cultural Politics of Nationalism and Nation-Building will appeal to students and scholars of ethnicity and nationalism, sociology, political science, anthropology, cultural studies, performance studies, art history and architecture.
The publisher also helpfully provides a table of contents:

1. Ritual and performance in the study of nations and nationalism Eric Taylor Woods and Rachel Tsang PART I: APPROACHES 2. The rites of nations: elites, masses and the re-enactment of the ‘national past’ Anthony D. Smith 3. National holiday commemorations: the view from below John E. Fox 4. Time-bubbles of nationalism: dynamics of solidarity ritual in lived time Randall Collins 5. Competition as ritual and the legitimation of the liberal nation-state Jonathan Hearn PART II: APPLICATIONS 6. Ritual in the early Louvre Museum Carol Duncan 7. Inventing or reviving the Greek ideal? Forging the regeneration of the French nation in the art of Paul Cézanne after the Franco-Prussian War Athena S. Leoussi 8. The nation’s shrine": conflict and commemoration at Yasukuni, modern Japan’s shrine to the war dead John Breen 9. Collective Action and National Identity: The Rally to Restore Sanity Rachel D. Hutchins 10. Britons in Maoriland: narratives of identity during the 1901 Royal visit to New Zealand Christopher McDonald

Friday, March 14, 2014

Coptic Civilization

It is only in the last three years that many people have started paying attention to what is going on in Egypt, and suddenly "discovering" a native Christian population there. But of course the Copts have long been known, studied, and admired for their tenacity and for their formidable artistic, liturgical, and ascetical traditions, inter alia. Forthcoming in May of this year from the American University in Cairo Press is a collection edited by Gawdat Gabra entitled Coptic Civilization: Two Thousand Years of Christianity in Egypt (2014, 360pp).

The publisher helpfully provides an overview and table of contents thus:

Egypt's Copts make up one of the oldest and largest Christian communities in the Middle East. Yet despite the availability of a large number of books on aspects of Coptic culture, including art and architecture, monasticism, theology, and music, there is to date no single volume that provides a comprehensive cultural history of the Copts and their achievements. Coptic Civilization aims to fill this gap, by introducing the general reader, the interested non-specialist, to Coptic culture in all its variety and multi-faceted richness. With contributions by twenty scholars, Coptic Civilization includes chapters on monasticism, the Coptic language, Coptic literature, Christian Arabic literature, the objects and documents of daily life, magic, art and architecture, and textiles, as well as the history of the Coptic Church, its liturgy, theology, and music.

Contributors: Dominique Bénazeth, Lois Farag, Cäcilia Fluck , Peter Grossmann, Gisele Helmecke, Magdalena Kuhn, Marvin Meyer, Samuel Moawad, Elisabeth R. O'Connell, Monica René , Tonio Sebastian Richter, Saad Michael Saad, Mark Sheridan, Mark N. Swanson, Hany N. Takla , Jacques van der Vliet, Nelly van Doorn-Harder, Gertrud J.M. van Loon, Youhanna Nessim Youssef, Ewa D. Zakrzewska

Includes chapters on  Coptic Historiography • Church History • Monasticism • Alexandrian Theology • Liturgy • Music • The Coptic Language • Gnosticism and Manichaeism • The Coptic Bible • Coptic Literature • Documentary Evidence of Daily Life • Magic • Copto-Arabic Literature • Archaeology • Architecture • Church Decoration • Objects of Daily Life • Post-pharaonic Textiles • The Coptic Church Today • Contemporary Coptic Art • Coptic Civilization in the Diaspora.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring 2014 Issue of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies

The upcoming spring 2014 issue of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, on which I am now at work, is packed with articles. In fact, our queue is full for the spring, the fall, and for most of the spring issue of 2015. Coincidentally, perhaps providentially, all three issues are assuming a "thematic" coherence: in one issue, we will have several articles on relations between Orthodox Christians and Muslims; in a second, we will have three, and perhaps four, articles on Bulgakov; and in a third issue, we have three, and perhaps four, articles on Orthodoxy and socioeconomic issues: Orthodoxy and ecology, Orthodoxy and human rights, Orthodoxy and economic development. We also have several short notes and essays on Russian literature and theology, on Byzantine liturgy, and other topics. And then the book reviews will be led off with a long, fascinating review essay by three scholars taking to task David Bradshaw's recent book Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom as well as his chapter in this recent edited collection.

I'll post more details, and a preliminary table of contents, later this week. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

From Byzantium to Islam in Palestine

When the Arab-Islamic conquests of lands today known as Syria, Egypt, and Palestine began in the seventh century, the transformation from a majority-Christian population to a majority-Muslim one did not happen overnight. What happened during that transition, and how long did it take? These are questions that are still being investigated, including in a new book: Gideon Avni, The Byzantine-Islamic Transition in Palestine: An Archaeological Approach (Oxford UP, 2014), 448pp.

About this book we are told:
Using a comprehensive evaluation of recent archaeological findings, Avni addresses the transformation of local societies in Palestine and Jordan between the sixth and eleventh centuries AD. Arguing that these archaeological findings provide a reliable, though complex, picture, Avni illustrates how the Byzantine-Islamic transition was a much slower and gradual process than previously thought, and that it involved regional variability, different types of populations, and diverse settlement patterns.

Based on the results of hundreds of excavations, including Avni's own surveys and excavations in the Negev, Beth Guvrin, Jerusalem, and Ramla, the volume reconstructs patterns of continuity and change in settlements during this turbulent period, evaluating the process of change in a dynamic multicultural society and showing that the coming of Islam had no direct effect on settlement patterns and material culture of the local population. The change in settlement, stemming from internal processes rather than from external political powers, culminated gradually during the Early Islamic period. However, the process of Islamization was slow, and by the eve of the Crusader period Christianity still had an overwhelming majority in Palestine and Jordan.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Orthodox Constructions of the West: III

When we were last met together, we discussed several articles in this excellent and very important collection, Orthodox Constructions of the West. Let us continue to explore its riches, beginning with an article on Georges Florovsky written by Paul Gavrilyuk, author of a forthcoming book on Florovsky as I noted earlier. It seems obvious that many contributors to this outstanding volume wrote articles based on books that would soon be forthcoming. That was the case with Plested's chapter, as I noted briefly in Part II of this series.

Gavrilyuk notes many rich ironies in the life of Florovsky, whom I studied in some detail in a doctoral course devoted to his thought more than ten years ago now. Gavrilyuk begins by noting a rather unmistakable strain of anti-Western and anti-Catholic sentiment in Florovsky at least in the 1920s when he was playing with fantasies of "Eurasian" civilization, far removed from those wretched German idealists and romantics. And yet, as Gavrilyuk puts it in an unimprovable sentence rightly skewering Florovsky: "It is ironic that a Russian theologian, born in the southern Ukraine and residing in France, would come to Greece to deliver his first communication in German and his second communication in English in order to protest the 'Western captivity' of Orthodox theology"! Most of the rest of the chapter is spent showing how, pace his protestations to the contrary, Florovsky was in fact influenced by Western categories and theologians, especially those in France at the same time as he was who were involved in the Catholic ressourcement movement. Much is demonstrated proving that Florovsky was in fact himself something of an idealist and a romantic, and that for all his going on about the supposed universality of Christian "Hellenism," his arguments in its favor are sweeping, unbalanced, partial, and highly tendentious.

What, then, are we to make of Florovsky today and his method of a "neo-patristic synthesis"? Gavrilyuk notes that we have two ways of proceeding, and many, alas, seem to have taken the first way which consists of hatred of the West, intellectual obscurantism, bogus mysticism, a "misguided apocalypticism" and what he memorably and aptly calls "patristic fundamentalism." In place of this Gavrilyuk counsels that we see Florovsky's method as being simply one of intellectual engagement of a given culture in order ultimately to lead that culture to the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Religion in Albania

Albania has long struck me as a place that has not been studied as much as it deserves. Its Orthodox Church underwent terrible suffering in the communist period, and has struggled a great deal since then. But the country also has a significant Muslim population. In my forthcoming book, Eastern Christian Encounters with Islam, I specifically included a chapter on Albania to capture something of Orthodox-Muslim relations there, which have also been treated in a recent book by Cecilie Endresen, Is the Albanian's Religion Really 'Albanianism'?: Religion and Nation according to Muslim and Christian Leaders in Albania (Harrassowitz Verlag, 2013), 288pp.

About this book we are told:
For over a century, Albanians have been urged to view religious differences as unimportant. But are they? By conducting an unique set of interviews with representatives of the country's high-ranking clerics, Cecile Endresen tries to answer this question. The clerics speak of an interplay between nation and religion in the their own symbolic universes and expound on such themes as salvation, religious tolerance, historical developments, theological differences, and politics. While embracing national unity and religious tolerance as an overriding ethos, they nonetheless manifest a certain religious rivalry and a sense of unjust treatment. As such, they appear to contradict their own claims; at the same time, they are proud to be Albanian and intent on upholding national unity. Their perception of what it means to be "Albanian" is invariably related to the question of religious differences and inter-religious relations. Endresen's study investigates religion in multi-religious, post-atheist Albania by highlighting the fluidity and the extreme complexity of relations between nation and religion in Albania - compounded by the effects of global politics, local traditions, religious doctrine, personal experience, regional history, national myths, Communist propaganda, and conspiracy theories.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cyprus: Crossroads of East and West

Well do I remember traveling to Cyprus for a week in the fall of 1993. Ottawa was just beginning to get very cool that autumn, but Cyprus was bracingly warm. I remember the trip largely because I had an emergency appendectomy six days before leaving, and feared my trip would be in jeopardy. But the surgery was swift and the recovery equally so and soon I was on my way from Montreal to London to Nicosia, where, inter alia, I toured the no man's land separating Cypriots and Turks, which was made all the more jarring and indeed absurd because it was surrounded by high-end boutiques in a rather rarefied shopping district.

A recent book treats Cyprus as a place of encounter between Eastern and Western Christians: Benjamin Arbel et al., eds., Cyprus and the Renaissance (1450-1650) (Brepols, 2013),420pp.

About this book we are told:
The present collection is the first of its kind centered on intellectual exchanges during the Renaissance period, deepening their source-based documentary study, as well as our knowledge of the island’s culture and heritage in relation to political, scholarly and religious life in Western countries.
These twelve essays by leading scholars in the field are products of an international research project on early modern Cyprus and its relation to cultural developments in the West, started in November 2009. Cyprus, an independent ‘Frankish’ kingdom from 1191 to 1473, became a Venetian protectorate, then, in 1489, a Venetian colony until its conquest by the Ottomans in 1570. Its population was diverse and rich in religious experience – preponderantly followers of the Greek rite, but also Latins, Eastern Christians and Jews. Its heritage from Antiquity, as well as from the Byzantine and Frankish periods, its monasteries (which received, reproduced and produced manuscripts) and its geopolitically pivotal site on East-West trade routes attracted numerous Westerners. The cultural magnet drew deeper interests than those of pilgrimage and tourism. The continuous to and fro of Europeans, many of them Venetian, the island’s importance to economic and military strategies, and the allure conferred by a mythological past stimulated and fostered a generous descriptive and allusive literature. The present collection is the first of its kind, centered on written culture and exchanges during the Renaissance period, deepening their source-based documentary study, as well as our knowledge of the island’s culture and heritage in relation to cultural developments in Western countries.
Essays by: Benjamin Arbel, Daniele Baglioni, Lorenzo Calvelli, Evelien Chayes, Paola Cosentino, Carlo Alberto Girotto, Gilles Grivaud, Angel Konnari-Nicolaou, Enrico Parlato, Paolo Procaccioli, Chris Schabel, Evangelia Skoufari. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Once There Was No Secular...

Though it depresses me somewhat to realize it, it was now close to two decades ago when I discovered the leading light of what came, in the 1990s, to be called the "Radical Orthodoxy" movement: John Milbank. Indeed, I flew down to the University of Virginia, where he was briefly a professor, to interview with him and ask him to direct my doctoral dissertation there. But he quickly repaired back to England after 9/11, and that was the end of that. Still, his book Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, which was originally published in 1990, has remained a hugely influential work, worth the price of admission for its ringing opening line alone: "Once, there was no 'secular'."

He has returned to that theme and those arguments over the years in various articles, and now in a forthcoming book: Beyond Secular Order: The Representation of Being and the Representation of the People (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), 298pp. About this book we are told:

Beyond Secular Order is the first of a two-volume work that expands upon renowned theologian John Milbank’s innovative attempt to understand both theology and modern thought begun in his previously published classic text Theology and Social Theory. Highlights:
  • Continues Milbank’s innovative attempt to understand both theology and modern thought begun in Theology and Social Theory – considered a classic work in the development of systematic theology
  • Authored by one of the world’s most influential and highly regarded contemporary theologians
  • Draws on a sweep of ideas and thinkers to argue that modern secularism is a form of Christian heresy that developed from the Middle Ages and can only be overcome by a renewed account of Christendom
  • Shows how this heresy can be transformed into a richer blend of religion, modernity and politics
  • Reveals how there is a fundamental homology between modern ideas about ontology and knowledge and modern ideas about political action, expressed in both theory and practice
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...