"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, December 10, 2014

Christmas 2014 Recommendations

Thrice in as many years I have reviewed books from those years and done up a list for Christmas recommendations.You can link to last year's list here and from there to the two previous years. In looking back over 2014, there are many noteworthy studies to have appeared. Let us recap thus:

Russian Orthodoxy:

One of the most prominent Russian Orthodox thinkers of the postwar period, Georges Florovsky, was the object of a splendid and hugely important new study by Paul Gavrilyuk, which I reviewed first here, and then in much more detail discussed here (my notes from my presentation on the book in Boston at the annual Orthodox Theological Society of America conference).

The trouble with romantically imagining that Russia today is the one repository of "traditional Christian values" was noted here.

The fascinating question of Russian Orthodoxy and human rights was treated in an important new book whose author I interviewed here.

Orthodoxy in the Russian imperial era noted here and another study here.

It is a welcome achievement to have in English at last the study of Hyacinthe Destivelle on the Moscow Council of 1917, which was detailed here.

The resurrection of Russian Orthodoxy under the early communists was noted here.

Given Russian banditry in Crimea this year, Paul Magocsi's new book This Blessed Land: Crimea and the Crimean Tatars could not have been more timely. It was noted here.

Paradoxes in the Russian Orthodox Church were noted here.

A new and general overview of Russian history was published and noted here.

We have, for much of the last decade, been seeing a major surge in new studies on Sergius Bulgakov, thanks in part to Eerdmans's long-running campaign to translate all his works into English. A recent study on Bulgakov, modernity, and Russian Orthodoxy was noted here.

Iconography and Iconoclasm:

This year saw a new translation of Theodore the Studite on icons, noted here

An interesting new study linking hesychasm and iconoclasm was detailed here.

The Orthodox British iconographer Aidan Hart was interviewed here about his lovely new book on icons, Icons in the Modern World: Sprint, Matter and Beautywhich I greatly commend to your attention.

Icons and portraits in Byzantium noted here.

Iconoclasms ancient and modern noted here and here.

Finally, a much more affordable paperback version of an important and large study of Byzantine icons of the Theotokos was noted here

Orthodoxy and Identity:

I was greatly cheered when Orthodox Constructions of the West was published. I discussed it in three parts, including here, here, and here. It remains a landmark work that must have a place in every library.

There are now at least three books on the topic of Orthodox identity, including the one noted here and a second one here.

An important study on Orthodoxy and nationalism was noted here.

Another significant study, this time on Eastern Christianity and politics (still a relatively under-developed area), was detailed here

The identity, and especially contemporary history, of converts to Orthodoxy in North America were studied by Oliver Herbel's splendid new book, Turning to Tradition: Converts and the Making of an American Orthodox Church. I first reviewed the book here, and interviewed him here. This wonderfully written book must have a place in every history of American Christianity.

Liturgics and Sacraments:

The scholarly proceedings of a conference on liturgies East and West was noted here.

An interesting study on the Eastern monastic psalter was noted here.

My prolific friend and Orthodox liturgical scholar Nicholas Denysenko published an important book I was only too happy to adopt for my graduate students next semester: Chrismation: A Primer for Catholics. I interviewed Nick about the book here.

East-West Relations:

The Italo-Greek monastery of Grottaferratta remains a fascinating place of East-West encounter. A recent scholarly collection that focuses on it in part was published as Monastic Tradition in Eastern Christianity and the Outside World: A Call for Dialogue. I interviewed the editor here.

The dialogue of love between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, begun in the 1960s, was discussed here

Is the Latin definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception a totally sui generis definition at odds with the East? Or is it in fact deeply grounded in quintessential Eastern sources? Christiaan Kappes argued the latter proposition in my interview with him here about his book The Immaculate Conception: Why Thomas Aquinas Denied, While John Duns Scotus, Gregory Palamas, & Mark Eugenicus Professed the Absolute Immaculate Existence of Mary.

The Centenary of the Great War:

2014 being the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, we saw a flood of books devoted to the topic, some of which were noted here.

Of those many books, Philip Jenkins' singular and fascinating study retains pride of place: The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade, which I reviewed briefly here.

A new study on Rafael Lemkin on genocide was noted here while Turkish resistance to acknowledging the Armenian genocide was noted here. What, nearly a century after that genocide, can be said about the state and future of Armenian Christianity? A new book seeking answers to those questions was noted here.


Pope Francis continues to surprise in many ways. I noted some recent scholarship on the papacy here.


Two major studies of Cyril of Alexandria were noted: one on Trinity and the Scripture noted here and the second on Cyril's Christology here.

The Fathers and Mothers of the desert studied by Benedicta Ward were noted here.

Newly translated works of Maximus the Confessor were noted here.

An interview with the author of a new study on John Moschos can be found here

Augustine Casiday's very important Remember the Days of Old: Orthodox Thinking on the Patristic Heritage, a work that helps in the crucial task of rescuing the Fathers back from the fanatics and fundamentalists, was reviewed in depth here.

Casiday was also interviewed here about his new and important study, Reconstructing the Theology of Evagrius Ponticus: Beyond Heresy.

A Festschrift for one of the great patrologists of our time, Andrew Louth, Celebration of Living Theology: A Festschrift in Honour of Andrew Louth was noted here.

Eastern Christian-Muslim Encounters:

Practical advice for Christians living under Islam was noted here in a translation from Patrick Viscuso: Guide for a Church under Islam: The Sixty-Six Canonical Questions Attributed to Theodoros Balsamon.

A landmark collection in a grossly understudied area of great importance was edited by Sam Noble and Sasha Treiger as The Orthodox Church in the Arab World, 700 - 1700: An Anthology of Sources. I interviewed the editors here.

What happened to Coptic Christians during the campaign of gradual Arabization was noted here.

The Christians of Jerusalem under Islamic rule were studied here.

The Crusades, of course, continue to fascinate and madden one in about equal measure. A new book on Islamic views of the Crusades was noted here while a study on Byzantium and the Crusades was mentioned here.

One of the early and landmark works in treating Jewish and Christian realities under the Ottomans (the "millet" system and all that) has long been out of print, but an abridged version was published this year, as I ntoed here, and belongs in every library devoted to the topic:

A recent study (one of several) on the connections between the Quran and the gospels was noted here.

A recent monograph on Muslim-Christian debate on whether God is one was noted here.

From the catalogues I have been sent for 2015, there will be no let-up in the new studies on all aspects of Eastern Christianity emerging from a variety of presses. Stay tuned in the new year for those!

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