"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).

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Fourth Crusade and its Aftermath

According to catalogues I have seen for the rest of the year, 2014 promises to be a year full of new books about the Crusades, those events of perpetual interest and almost equally perpetual misunderstanding on the part of many. Set for May release is the first of several new books, with more coming in June, July, and November. First up is Jonathan Phillips, The Crusades, 1095-1204 (Routledge, 2014), 318pp.

About this book we are told:
This new and considerably expanded edition of The Crusades, 1095-1204 couples vivid narrative with a clear and accessible analysis of the key ideas that prompted the conquest and settlement of the Holy Land between the First and the Fourth Crusade.This edition now covers the Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, along with greater coverage of the Muslim response to the Crusades from the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 to Saladin’s leadership of the counter-crusade, culminating in his struggle with Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusade. It also examines the complex motives of the Italian city states during the conquest of the Levant, as well as relations between the Frankish settlers and the indigenous population, both Eastern Christian and Muslim, in times of war and peace. Extended treatment of the events of the First Crusade, the failure of the Second Crusade, and the prominent role of female rulers in the Latin East feature too.
Underpinned by the latest research, this book also features:
- a ‘Who’s Who’, a Chronology, a discussion of the Historiography, maps, family trees, and numerous illustrations.
- a strong collection of contemporary documents, including previously untranslated narratives and poems.
- A blend of thematic and narrative chapters also consider the Military Orders, kingship, warfare and castles, and pilgrimage.
This new edition provides an illuminating insight into one of the most famous and compelling periods of history.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Soviet and Cossack History

Given recent and on-going events in Ukraine and Russia, we have heard and seen the word "Cossack" used more often in Western media of late than perhaps it ever has been. A recent book by a prominent Harvard historian, why has written numerous books on the Cossacks, and on Ukrainian and Russian history, gives us background on the Cossacks: Serhii Plokhy, The Cossack Myth: History and Nationhood in the Age of Empires (Cambridge UP, 2012), 399pp.

About this book we are told:

In the years following the Napoleonic Wars, a mysterious manuscript began to circulate among the dissatisfied noble elite of the Russian Empire. Entitled The History of the Rus', it became one of the most influential historical texts of the modern era. Attributed to an eighteenth-century Orthodox archbishop, it described the heroic struggles of the Ukrainian Cossacks. Alexander Pushkin read the book as a manifestation of Russian national spirit but Taras Shevchenko interpreted it as a quest for Ukrainian national liberation and it would inspire thousands of Ukrainians to fight for the freedom of their homeland. Serhii Plokhy tells the fascinating story of the text's discovery and dissemination unravelling the mystery of its authorship and tracing its subsequent impact on Russian and Ukrainian historical and literary imagination. In so doing he brilliantly illuminates the relationship between history, myth, empire and nationhood from Napoleonic times to the fall of the Soviet Union.
Speaking of the fall of the Soviet Union, Plokhy's most recent book, set for release next month, treats that very topic: The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union (Basic Books, 2014), 520pp.

About this book we are told:

On Christmas Day, 1991, President George H. W. Bush addressed the nation to declare an American victory in the Cold War: earlier that day Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned as the first and last Soviet president. The enshrining of that narrative, one in which the end of the Cold War was linked to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the triumph of democratic values over communism, took center stage in American public discourse immediately after Bush’s speech and has persisted for decades—with disastrous consequences for American standing in the world.

As prize-winning historian Serhii Plokhy reveals in The Last Empire, the collapse of the Soviet Union was anything but the handiwork of the United States. On the contrary, American leaders dreaded the possibility that the Soviet Union—weakened by infighting and economic turmoil—might suddenly crumble, throwing all of Eurasia into chaos. Bush was firmly committed to supporting his ally and personal friend Gorbachev, and remained wary of nationalist or radical leaders such as recently elected Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Fearing what might happen to the large Soviet nuclear arsenal in the event of the union’s collapse, Bush stood by Gorbachev as he resisted the growing independence movements in Ukraine, Moldova, and the Caucasus. Plokhy’s detailed, authoritative account shows that it was only after the movement for independence of the republics had gained undeniable momentum on the eve of the Ukrainian vote for independence that fall that Bush finally abandoned Gorbachev to his fate.

Drawing on recently declassified documents and original interviews with key participants, Plokhy presents a bold new interpretation of the Soviet Union’s final months and argues that the key to the Soviet collapse was the inability of the two largest Soviet republics, Russia and Ukraine, to agree on the continuing existence of a unified state. By attributing the Soviet collapse to the impact of American actions, US policy makers overrated their own capacities in toppling and rebuilding foreign regimes.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Maximus the Confessor and His Difficulties and Ambiguities

A decade ago now, one of my doctoral courses was on Maximus the Confessor, about whom I have posted before. There has been a significant number of publications devoted to him in the last two decades, and just this month I was sent two more: new translations done by Nicholas Constas, On Difficulties in the Church Fathers: The Ambigua Vol. I and The Ambigua, Vol. II (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, 2014).

About this handsome hardback two-volume set the publisher tells us:

Maximos the Confessor is one of the most challenging and original Christian thinkers of all time. The Ambigua is his greatest philosophical and doctrinal work, in which daring originality, prodigious talent for speculative thinking, and analytical acumen are on lavish display. The result is a labyrinthine map of the mind's journey to God.

Maximos the Confessor (580-662) occupies a unique position in the history of Byzantine philosophy, theology, and spirituality. His profound spiritual experiences and penetrating theological vision found complex and often astonishing expression in his unparalleled command of Greek philosophy, making him one of the most challenging and original Christian thinkers of all time. So thoroughly did his thought come to influence the Byzantine theological tradition that it is impossible to trace the subsequent history of Orthodox Christianity without knowledge of his work. The Ambigua (or "Book of Difficulties") is Maximos's greatest philosophical and doctrinal work, in which his daring originality, prodigious talent for speculative thinking, and analytical acumen are on lavish display. In the Ambigua, a broad range of theological topics--cosmology, anthropology, the philosophy of mind and language, allegory, asceticism, and metaphysics--are transformed in a synthesis of Aristotelian logic, Platonic metaphysics, Stoic psychology, and the arithmetical philosophy of a revived Pythagoreanism. The result is a labyrinthine map of the mind's journey to God that figured prominently in the Neoplatonic revival of the Komnenian Renaissance and the Hesychast Controversies of the Late Byzantine period. This remarkable work has never before been available in a critically based edition or English translation.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Post-Soviet Orthodox Identities

In my mini-series on Orthodox Constructions of the West, I noted with great gratitude that we seem to be entering a phase where scholarship is demythologizing much of how Eastern and Western Christians have conceived of each other and especially of our dolorous history. That campaign gains further steam in a book just published in January. I knew the first editor, Andrii Krawchuk, very slightly when our time overlapped briefly at the Sheptytsky Institute in Ottawa, and he has authored other well-received studies, especially in Ukrainian church history and moral theology. He's teamed up with Thomas Bremer (author of a recently published book on Russian Orthodox history, and editor of other, earlier collections) to produce what looks to be a rich volume stuffed with interesting articles: Andrii Krawchuk and Thomas Bremer, Eastern Orthodox Encounters of Identity and Otherness: Values, Self-Reflection, Dialogue (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 380pp.

About this book we are told:
From diverse international and multi-disciplinary perspectives, the contributors to this volume analyse the experiences, challenges and responses of orthodox churches to the foundational transformations associated with the dissolution of the USSR. Those transformations heightened the urgency of questions about Orthodox identity and relations with the world - states, societies, and the religious and cultural other.

The volume focuses on six distinct concepts: orthodox identity, perceptions of the 'other,' critiques of the West, European values, interreligious progress, and new and uncharted challenges that have arisen with the expansion of Russian Orthodox activity.

We are also given this very detailed table of contents:

Introduction; Andrii Krawchuk
1. Russian Orthodoxy between State and Nation; Jennifer Wasmuth
2. Morality and Patriotism: Continuity and Change in Russian Orthodox Occidentalism since the Soviet Era; Alfons Brüning
3. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church at the Crossroads: Between Nationalism and Pluralism; Daniela Kalkandjieva
4. The Search for a new Church Consciousness in current Russian Orthodox Discourse; Anna Briskina-Müller

5. Between Admiration and Refusal – Roman Catholic Perceptions of Orthodoxy; Thomas Bremer
6. Apostolic Continuity in Contradiction to Liberalism? Fields of Tension between Churches in the East and the West; Dagmar Heller
7. The Image of the Roman-Catholic Church in the Orthodox Press of Romania, 1918-1940; Ciprian Ghi?a
8. 'Oh, East is East, and West is West…:' The Character of Orthodox – Greek-Catholic Discourse in Ukraine and its Regional Dimensions; Natalia Kochan

9. 'The Barbarian West': A Form of Orthodox Christian Anti-Western Critique; Vasilios N. Makrides
10. Anti-western Theology in Greece and Serbia Today; Julia Anna Lis
11. The Russian Orthodox Church on the Values of Modern Society; Regina Elsner

12. Eastern Orthodoxy and the Processes of European Integration; Tina Olteanu and Dorothée de Nève
13. The Russian Orthodox Church's Interpretation of European Legal Values (1990-2011); Mikhail Zherebyatyev
14. The Russian Orthodox Church in a new Situation in Russia: Challenges and Responses; Olga Kazmina

15. Neopatristic Synthesis and Ecumenism: Towards the 'Reintegration' of Christian Tradition; Matthew Baker
16. Justification in the Theological Conversations Between Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Protestant Churches in Germany; Christoph Mühl
17. Constructing Interreligious Consensus in the Post-Soviet Space: the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations; Andrii Krawchuk

18. Radical Islam in the Ferghana Valley; Galina M. Yemelianova
19. Uzbek Islamic Extremists in the Civil Wars of Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan: From Radical Islamic Awakening in the Ferghana Valley to Terrorism with Islamic Vocabulary in Waziristan; Michael Fredholm

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Life of Patriarch Ignatius

The important and prestigious Dumbarton Oaks Press (under the auspices of Harvard University Press) continues to publish important works about early and Eastern Christianity. A recent such study by Nicetas David, transalted by Andrew Smithies, and annotated and edited by John Duffy is The Life of Patriarch Ignatius (Dumbarton Oaks Texts, 2013), 232pp.

About this book we are told:

This is the vivid and partisan account of two tremendous ecclesiastical struggles of the ninth century. One was between opposing patriarchs of Constantinople—the learned Photius (858–867, 877–886) and the monk Ignatius (847–858, 867–877)—and gave rise to long periods of schism, intrigue, and scandal in the Greek Orthodox world. The other was between Patriarch Photius and the papacy, which at its low point saw Photius and Nicholas I trade formal condemnations of each other and adversely affected East–West relations for generations afterwards.

The author of The Life of Patriarch Ignatius, Nicetas David Paphlagon, was a prolific and versatile writer, but also a fierce conservative in ecclesiastical politics, whose passion and venom show through on every page. As much a frontal attack on Photius as a record of the author’s hero Ignatius, The Life of Patriarch Ignatius offers a fascinating, if biased, look into the complex world of the interplay between competing church factions, the imperial powers, and the papacy in the ninth century. This important historical document is here critically edited and translated into English for the first time. The annotations, maps, and indexes help the reader to place the work in context.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Greek Struggles, Economic and Otherwise

Though the lurid tales of economic struggle in Greece have fallen off North American headlines, the struggles are far from over. A recent book takes a look at the related notions of economic progress, "modernization," and the role of Greek culture, including Greek Orthodoxy, within the current context: Anna Triandafyllidou, Ruby Gropas, and Hara Kouki, eds., The Greek Crisis and European Modernity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 256pp. 

About this group of essays we are told:
This collection explores the current economic and political crisis in Greece and more widely in Europe. Greece is used to illustrate and exemplify the contradictions of the dominant paradigm of European modernity, the ruptures that are inherent to it, and the alternative modernity discourses that develop within Europe. By critically reviewing the 'alternative' path to modernization that Greece has taken, the authors question whether the current Greek economic and political-moral crisis is the resulting failure of this 'alternative' or 'deviant' modernization model or whether it is the result of a wider crisis in the dominant European economic and political modernity paradigm.

Monday, April 21, 2014

What is Patristic? What Apostolic?

Augustine Casiday is a busy and prolific fellow. I interviewed him last September about his massive, and massively impressive, The Orthodox Christian World.

Since then, he has also published a book on Evagrius and the taint of "heresy" that surrounds him. And now he has another volume just out: Remember the Days of Old: Orthodox Thinking on the Patristic Heritage (SVS Press, 2014),198pp.
About this book we are told:
The faith of the Orthodox Christian is “apostolic,” in that it is continuous with the faith of the first century apostles. But to be truly apostolic it must be sent into the world, speaking to each new age. In this fresh and innovative work, Augustine Casiday shows us what it means to re-appropriate the wisdom of the Fathers and to give their words new life in a new age.
Beginning with the basic inquiry of what it means to accord the ancient writers’ authority—as it were affiliating them, or adopting them as fathers—the reader is invited to join on a journey to many new places, as well as to ones we thought we knew, but didn’t really. This book will inform anyone who wants to grapple with how we treat the past and its authoritative voices. Beginners will encounter a first-rate thinker writing comprehensibly and accessibly. Advanced patristic scholars will be guaranteed to come away from this book with new insights and challenging arguments.
I look forward to reading this book and seeing about an interview with the author. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Byzantine Prothesis Rite

One of the happy developments--among many--of our time in Eastern Christian studies is the development of Eastern, especially Byzantine, liturgical history. A steady stream of solid works continues to emerge, including this recent contribution by Stelyios Muksuris treating the preparatory rites of the Byzantine liturgy: Economia and Eschatology: Liturgical Mystagogy in the Byzantine Prothesis Rite (Holy Cross Press, 2013), 253pp.

About this book several prominent commentators have this to say:
"I extend my appreciation to Father Stelyios for this significant theological and spiritual offering on the Prothesis Rite of the Divine Liturgy. His analysis affirms how our worship and celebration of the Holy Eucharist connect our past, present, and future as Christians - how the Liturgy offers a continuous witness of Christ's Passion, of the living and transforming message of the Gospel, and of the fulfillment of all things" (Archbishop Demetrios of America, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America).

"Remember when they stopped making computer manuals, and to avoid going mad you had to buy Mac for Dummies? Well, Fr. Stelyios has written that manual for the Byzantine Prothesis rite. From now on, whoever wants to traverse that largely uncharted minefield will have to have this book in hand" (Robert F. Taft, S.J., F.B.A., Professor Emeritus of Oriental Liturgy, Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome, Italy).

"'Liturgical mystagogy,' writes Fr. Stelyios Muksuris, 'intends to raise the spiritual consciousness of the worshipper, from a trivial vision of the ritual acts conducted in the church to a deeper understanding of the meaning behind those acts... It attempts to convey the invisible divine presence through the visible human act.' With this book, Fr. Stelyios has accomplished just such a mystagogy. He has enriched immeasurably my own appreciation of the preparatory ritual performed before the celebration of the Divine LIturgy. I am indebted to him for this book. My experience of the Liturgy will never be the same" (Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh, PA).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Before and After Mohammad

We are living in a time when critical attention to the origins of Islam is finally being paid in an important and fairly widespread manner. A recent book helps us look beyond even the foundational personality of Mohammad and into a much wider context: Garth Fowden, Before and After Muhammad: The First Millennium Refocused (Princeton UP, 2013), 248pp.

About this book we are told:

Islam emerged amid flourishing Christian and Jewish cultures, yet students of Antiquity and the Middle Ages mostly ignore it. Despite intensive study of late Antiquity over the last fifty years, even generous definitions of this period have reached only the eighth century, whereas Islam did not mature sufficiently to compare with Christianity or rabbinic Judaism until the tenth century. Before and After Muhammad suggests a new way of thinking about the historical relationship between the scriptural monotheisms, integrating Islam into European and West Asian history.
Garth Fowden identifies the whole of the First Millennium--from Augustus and Christ to the formation of a recognizably Islamic worldview by the time of the philosopher Avicenna--as the proper chronological unit of analysis for understanding the emergence and maturation of the three monotheistic faiths across Eurasia. Fowden proposes not just a chronological expansion of late Antiquity but also an eastward shift in the geographical frame to embrace Iran. In Before and After Muhammad, Fowden looks at Judaism, Christianity, and Islam alongside other important developments in Greek philosophy and Roman law, to reveal how the First Millennium was bound together by diverse exegetical traditions that nurtured communities and often stimulated each other.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Islamic Views of the Crusades

As has been lamented on here too many times, the Crusades remain some of the most grossly mis-represented events in history, subject to all manner of tendentious abuse. A book set for release in early July may shed more light on them, and from a very different angle: Paul M. Cobb, The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades (Oxford UP, 2014), 368pp.

In 1099, when the first crusaders arrived triumphant and bloody before the walls of Jerusalem, they carved out a Christian European presence in the Islamic world that remained for centuries, bolstered by subsequent waves of new crusades and pilgrimages. But how did medieval Muslims understand these events? What does an Islamic history of the Crusades look like? The answers may surprise you.

In The Race for Paradise, we see medieval Muslims managing this new and long-lived Crusader threat not simply as victims or as victors, but as everything in-between, on all shores of the Muslim Mediterranean, from Spain to Syria. This is not just a straightforward tale of warriors and kings clashing in the Holy Land - of military confrontations and enigmatic heros such as the great sultan Saladin. What emerges is a more complicated story of border-crossers and turncoats; of embassies and merchants; of scholars and spies, all of them seeking to manage this new threat from the barbarian fringes of their ordered world.

When seen from the perspective of medieval Muslims, the Crusades emerge as something altogether different from the high-flying rhetoric of the European chronicles: as a diplomatic chess-game to be mastered, a commercial opportunity to be seized, a cultural encounter shaping Muslim experiences of Europeans until the close of the Middle Ages - and, as so often happened, a political challenge to be exploited by ambitious rulers making canny use of the language of jihad.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Be Sealed!

This semester, in separate classes with both undergraduates and graduates, I have been able to use an old trick: few things ignite vigorous and lengthy discussion in a classroom with a healthy number of Catholics (several of whom work for parishes in several capacities, chiefly those having to do with catechesis) than to raise the topic of Confirmation. So I innocently ask about that sacrament in particular, and the sacraments of initiation in general, especially the order of their administration, and bam!: a good half-hour and more of very vigorous discussion ensues. I must confess that prior to such regular exchanges with people in the "front lines" (catechists, parochial school teachers, directors of religious education, RCIA co-ordinators), I was a hardcore and unapologetic defender of the ancient and undivided tradition whereby Baptism-Chrismation-Eucharist are all given in that order, immediately, on the same day, to everyone from infancy onward. I still think that's the most theologically defensible practice, but given the dynamics in the Latin Church today, and the many pastoral challenges of a serious nature which would attend an abrupt return to the original practice, I am no longer quite so confidently willing to insist everyone must follow that practice.

My good friend Nicholas Denysenko, Orthodox deacon, professor of theology at Loyola Marymount, and director of the Huffington Ecumenical Institute, has a book coming out in May that very sensibly and intelligently looks at all these issues:  Chrismation: A Primer for Catholics (Liturgical Press, 2014), 248pp.

The book is available both as a paperback and as an e-Book so you've no excuse for not ordering it. I interviewed Nick about his last book on Theophany water blessings here. And I hope to interview him again about this book in the coming weeks. About this book, the publisher tells us:
What is chrismation? Nicholas Denysenko breaks open chrismation as sacrament of belonging by exploring its history and liturgical theology. This study offers a sacramental theology of chrismation by examining its relationship with baptism and the Eucharist and its function as the ritual for receiving converts into the Orthodox Church. Drawing from a rich array of liturgical and theological sources, Denysenko explains how chrismation initiates the participant into the life of the triune God, beginning a process of theosis, becoming like God. The book includes a chapter comparing and contrasting chrismation and confirmation, along with pastoral suggestions for renewing the potential of this sacrament to transform the lives of participants.
Reflecting the dual audiences of this book, two of the reviewers, one Orthodox and the other Catholic (who is steeped in Orthodox liturgical theology) note:
In this book on chrismation, Denysenko exemplifies the best in ecumenical liturgical scholarship. Drawing on both Eastern and Western sources, ancient and modern, he uncovers for the reader the richness and diversity of both traditions. Catholics and Orthodox alike will benefit from reading this work (Paul Meyendorff, The Alexander Schmemann Professor of Liturgical Theology, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary).
Denysenko offers Catholics a primer on Byzantine chrismation, in order to set up a conversation between East and West. First, he gleans a liturgical theology from the rite's lex orandi, including its use for the reception of converts. Then he presents the perspective of numerous Orthodox theologians. And all this he can then bring to the table for an honest dialogue, since he is also well-versed in contemporary Catholic discussion about confirmation. The result is what he calls "a gift exchange," pointing out riches the East and West can share with each other. Being happily grounded in his own Orthodox tradition, yet ecumenically hospitable, he gives us a work that will cross-fertilize the Catholic understanding of confirmation and Orthodox understanding of chrismation. The superb result is a study that bridges the academic and the pastoral so as to regenerate our appreciation of this venerable liturgical celebration (David W. Fagerberg, University of Notre Dame)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Byzantium and the Turks in the 13th Century

A spot of late-season flu has kept me from doing much of anything this week, least of all posting on here. But I'm keenly interested in a book that won't actually be in print for another six months or so: Dimitri Korobeinikov, Byzantium and the Turks in the Thirteenth Century (Oxford, 2014), 432pp.

About this book, which is published in the prestigious series Oxford Studies in Byzantium, we are told
At the beginning of the thirteenth century Byzantium was still one of the most influential states in the eastern Mediterranean, possessing two-thirds of the Balkans and almost half of Asia Minor. After the capture of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, the most prominent and successful of the Greek rump states was the Empire of Nicaea, which managed to re-capture the city in 1261 and restore Byzantium. The Nicaean Empire, like Byzantium of the Komnenoi and Angeloi of the twelfth century, went on to gain dominant influence over the Seljukid Sultanate of Rum in the 1250s. However, the decline of the Seljuk power, the continuing migration of Turks from the east, and what effectively amounted to a lack of Mongol interest in western Anatolia, allowed the creation of powerful Turkish nomadic confederations in the frontier regions facing Byzantium. By 1304, the nomadic Turks had broken Byzantium's eastern defences; the Empire lost its Asian territories forever, and Constantinople became the most eastern outpost of Byzantium. At the beginning of the fourteenth century the Empire was a tiny, second-ranking Balkan state, whose lands were often disputed between the Bulgarians, the Serbs, and the Franks.

Using Greek, Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman sources, Byzantium and the Turks in the Thirteenth Century presents a new interpretation of the Nicaean Empire and highlights the evidence for its wealth and power. It explains the importance of the relations between the Byzantines and the Seljuks and the Mongols, revealing how the Byzantines adapted to the new and complex situation that emerged in the second half of the thirteenth century. Finally, it turns to the Empire's Anatolian frontiers and the emergence of the Turkish confederations, the biggest challenge that the Byzantines faced in the thirteenth century.

Monday, April 7, 2014

I Spy Strangers

Given the events of this year, the question has been regularly asked: is Putin trying to recreate the Soviet Union in today's Russia or does he have an earlier model? Does he aspire to be Stalin redux or a new tsar? And what happened to those minorities who lived under the last tsar, Nicholas II? A book set for release in May sheds welcome light on these questions: Paul W. Werth, The Tsar's Foreign Faiths: Toleration and the Fate of Religious Freedom in Imperial Russia (Oxford, 2014),320pp.

The publisher highlights the virtues of this book thus, saying it:
  • Covers almost 150 years of Russian history, spanning the entire tsarist empire
  • Offers the only broadly comprehensive religious history of the Russian Empire, addressing such diverse traditions as Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism
  • Draws on materials from some fourteen archival repositories in five different countries
  • Places the evolution of religious freedom in Russia in a broader framework encompassing other European states
  • Integrates the secondary scholarship on particular cases, religious traditions, and locales to produce a unified synthetic account
About this book we are further told:
The Russian Empire presented itself to its subjects and the world as an Orthodox state, a patron and defender of Eastern Christianity. Yet the tsarist regime also lauded itself for granting religious freedoms to its many heterodox subjects, making 'religious toleration' a core attribute of the state's identity. The Tsar's Foreign Faiths shows that the resulting tensions between the autocracy's commitments to Orthodoxy and its claims to toleration became a defining feature of the empire's religious order.

In this panoramic account, Paul W. Werth explores the scope and character of religious freedom for Russia's diverse non-Orthodox religions, from Lutheranism and Catholicism to Islam and Buddhism. Considering both rhetoric and practice, he examines discourses of religious toleration and the role of confessional institutions in the empire's governance. He reveals the paradoxical status of Russia's heterodox faiths as both established and 'foreign', and explains the dynamics that shaped the fate of newer conceptions of religious liberty after the mid-nineteenth century. If intellectual change and the shifting character of religious life in Russia gradually pushed the regime towards the acceptance of freedom of conscience, then statesmen's nationalist sentiments and their fears of 'politicized' religion impeded this development. Russia's religious order thus remained beset by contradiction on the eve of the Great War. Based on archival research in five countries and a vast scholarly literature, The Tsar's Foreign Faiths represents a major contribution to the history of empire and religion in Russia, and to the study of toleration and religious diversity in Europe.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Origen and Scripture

As I have noted repeatedly on here, interest in, and even lingering controversy over, Origen remains high. Set for release this summer is a more affordable paperback version of a book Oxford first published in 2012: Peter W. Martens, Origen and Scripture: The Contours of the Exegetical Life (Oxford, 2014), 294pp.

About this book we are told:
Scriptural interpretation was an important form of scholarship for Christians in late antiquity. For no one does this claim ring more true than Origen of Alexandria (185-254), one of the most prolific scholars of Scripture in early Christianity. This book examines his approach to the Bible through a biographical lens: the focus is on his account of the scriptural interpreter, the animating centre of the exegetical enterprise. In pursuing this largely neglected line of inquiry, Peter W. Martens discloses the contours of Origen's sweeping vision of scriptural exegesis as a way of life. For Origen, ideal interpreters were far more than philologists steeped in the skills conveyed by Greco-Roman education. Their profile also included a commitment to Christianity from which they gathered a spectrum of loyalties, guidelines, dispositions, relationships and doctrines that tangibly shaped how they practiced and thought about their biblical scholarship. The study explores the many ways in which Origen thought ideal scriptural interpreters (himself included) embarked upon a way of life, indeed a way of salvation, culminating in the everlasting contemplation of God. This new and integrative thesis takes seriously how the discipline of scriptural interpretation was envisioned by one of its pioneering and most influential practitioners.
The publisher also provides the table of contents:
Part I: The Philologist
1: Mandate: The Interpreter's Education
2: Specialization: The Elements of Philology
Part II: The Philologist and Christianity
3: Scholarship: Divine Provenance
4: Conversion: Sanctified Study
5: Boundaries (Part I): Interpretation Among the Heterodox
6: Boundaries (Part II): Interpretation in the New Israel
7: Conduct: Moral Inquiry
8: Message: Saving Knowledge
9: Horizons: The Beginning and End of the Drama of Salvation

Thursday, April 3, 2014

How Good it is When the Brethren Dwell Together in Unity

Though it will set the usual Athonites and would-be Athonite bloggers to foaming at the mouth, the patriarchs of old and new Rome are set to commemmorate the meeting 50 years ago of their predecessors in Jerusalem. A short little book that was set for release in March, but appears delayed until the middle of this month, discusses that meeting in 1964 and its implications in the half-century since: John Chryssavgis, ed., Dialogue of Love: Breaking the Silence of Centuries (Fordham UP, 2014), 96pp.

About this book we are told:
In 1964, a little noticed, albeit pioneering encounter in the Holy Land between the heads of the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church spawned numerous contacts and diverse openings between the two "sister churches," which had not communicated with one another for centuries. This year, fifty years later, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will meet again in Jerusalem to commemorate that historical event and celebrate the close relations that have developed through mutual exchanges of formal visits and an official theological dialogue that began in 1980.

This book contains three unique chapters: 1) A sketch of the behind-the-scenes challenges and negotiations that accompanied the meeting in 1964, detailing the immediate consequences of the event and setting the tone for the volume. 2) An inspirational account, albeit interwoven with a scholarly evaluation of the work of the North American Standing Council on Orthodox/Catholic relations over the last decades. 3) A recently discovered reflection on the meeting that took place fifty years ago by one of the most important Orthodox theologians of the twentieth century, expressing cautious optimism about the future of Christian unity.
We are also given the table of contents:
Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon

John Chryssavgis

1. Pilgrimage toward Unity: Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI in Jerusalem Based on Correspondence and Archives
John Chryssavgis

2. Breathing with Both Lungs: Fifty Years of the Dialogue of Love
Brian E. Daley, S.J.

3. "A Sign of Contradiction": A Reflection on the Meeting of the Pope and the Patriarch
Georges Florovsky

Afterword: The Dawn of Expectation
Walter Cardinal Kasper

List of Contributors

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Eastern Christianity and Politics

It has this year become obvious that one of the major themes to be developed within Orthodox theology in the coming years will be the relationship between Church and state, a relationship which has entered a new phase for much of Orthodoxy in the post-Soviet period. We have therefore started to see a number of books, most previously noted on here, emerge in the past few years on Church-state relations as well as related questions about, e.g., human rights. Set for release in May is a hefty tome that promises to take a wide-ranging look at these questions and relations in a wonderfully diverse array of contexts: Lucian Leustean, ed., Eastern Christianity and Politics in the Twenty-First Century (Routledge, 2014), 864pp.

About this book the publisher provides us an overview as well as detailed table of contents thus:
This book provides an up-to-date, comprehensive overview of Eastern Christian churches in Europe, the Middle East, America, Africa, Asia and Australia. Written by leading international scholars in the field, it examines both Orthodox and Oriental churches from the end of the Cold War up to the present day. The book offers a unique insight into the myriad of church-state relations in Eastern Christianity and tackles contemporary concerns, opportunities and challenges, such as religious revival after the fall of communism; churches and democracy; relations between Orthodox, Catholic and Greek Catholic churches; religious education and monastic life; the size and structure of congregations; and the impact of migration, secularisation and globalisation on Eastern Christianity in the twenty-first century.

1. Eastern Christianity and Politics in the Twenty-First Century. An Overview, Lucian N. Leustean Part I: Chalcedonian Churches 2. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, Lucian N. Leustean 3. The Russian Orthodox Church, Zoe Knox and Anastasia Mitrofanova 4. The Serbian Orthodox Church, Klaus Buchenau 5. The Romanian Orthodox Church, Lucian Turcescu and Lavinia Stan 6. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Daniela Kalkandjieva 7. The Georgian Orthodox Church, Paul Crego 8. The Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Victor Roudometof and Irene Dietzel 9. The Orthodox Church of Greece, Vasilios N. Makrides 10. The Polish Orthodox Church, Edward D. Wynot 11. The Orthodox Church of Albania, Nicolas Pano 12. The Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, Tomáš Havlíček 13. Orthodox Churches in America, Alexei D. Krindatch and John H. Erickson 14. The Finnish Orthodox Church, Teuvo Laitila 15. Orthodox Churches in Estonia, Sebastian Rimestad 16. Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, Zenon V. Wasyliw 17. The Belarusian Orthodox Church, Sergei A. Mudrov 18. The Lithuanian Orthodox Church, Regina Laukaitytė 19. The Latvian Orthodox Church, Inese Runce and Jelena Avanesova 20. Orthodox Churches in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, Kimitaka Matsuzato 21. Orthodox Churches in Moldova, Andrei Avram 22. The Macedonian Orthodox Church, Todor Cepreganov, Maja Angelovska-Panova and Dragan Zajkovski 23. Orthodox Churches in Japan, China and Korea, Kevin Baker 24. Orthodox Churches in Australia, James Jupp
Part II: Non-Chalcedonian Churches 25. The Armenian Apostolic Church, Hratch Tchilingirian 26. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Stéphane Ancel, Giulia Bonacci and Joachim Persoon 27. The Coptic Orthodox Church, Fiona McCallum 28. The Syrian Orthodox Church, Erica C. D. Hunter 29. Syrian Christian Churches in India, M. P. Joseph, Uday Balakrishnan and István Perczel
Part III: The Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East 30. The Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, Erica C. D. Hunter Part IV: Greek Catholic Churches in Eastern Europe 31. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Natalia Shlikhta 32. The Romanian Greek Catholic Church, Ciprian Ghișa and Lucian N. Leustean 33. The Bulgarian Eastern Catholic Church, Daniela Kalkandjieva 34. The Hungarian Greek Catholic Church, Stéphanie Mahieu
Part V: Challenges in the Twenty-First Century 35. Orthodox Churches and Migration, Kristina Stoeckl 36. Catholic-Orthodox Relations in Post-War Europe, Thomas Bremer 37. Secularism without Liberalism: Orthodox Churches, Human Rights and American Foreign Policy in Southeastern Europe, Kristen Ghodsee 38. Orthodox Churches and Globalisation, Victor Roudometof
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