"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, March 31, 2021

The Oxford Handbook of Ecumenical Studies

I was pleased and honoured to have been asked, nearly a decade ago now, to contribute to this forthcoming collection, part of a series of such Handbooks published by the world's most prestigious academic press: The Oxford Handbook of Ecumenical Studies, eds. Geoffrey Wainwright and Paul McPartlan (Oxford University Press, July 2021), 696pp. My chapter is on ecclesiology. 

As an editor myself of international scholarly collections, including my newest one, Married Priests in the Catholic Church, which likewise took nearly a decade to finish, I am well aware of how much one is at the mercy of contributors, and how long they can force you to drag things out by not submitting materials on time, or by (in some especially egregious cases) agreeing to submit and then not only failing to do so, but refusing all further communication in a vexatiously rude manner. I know from talking to Paul over the years that this forthcoming Handbook took much longer than was hoped--so much so that the other editor, Geoffrey Wainwright, died just over a year ago, before this book was in print. 

But at long last this Handbook makes its debut. About it the publisher tells us this:

The Oxford Handbook of Ecumenical Studies is an unparalleled compendium of ecumenical history, information and reflection. With essay contributions by nearly fifty experts in their various fields, and edited by two leading international scholars, the Handbook is a major resource for all who are involved or interested in ecumenical work for reconciliation between Christians and for the unity of the Church. Its six main sections consider, respectively, the different phases of the history of the ecumenical movement from the mid-nineteenth century to the present; the ways in which leading Christian churches and traditions, Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, and Pentecostal, have engaged with and contributed to the movement; the achievements of ecumenical dialogue in key areas of Christian doctrine, such as Christology and ecclesiology, baptism, Eucharist and ministry, morals and mission, and the issues that remain outstanding; various ecumenical agencies and instruments, such as covenants and dialogues, the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Global Christian Forum; the progress and difficulties of ecumenism in different countries, areas and continents of the world, the UK and the USA, Africa, Asia, South America, Europe, and the Middle East, ; and finally two all-important questions are considered by scholars from various traditions: what would Christian unity look like and what is the best method for seeking it? This is a remarkably comprehensive account and assessment of one of the most outstanding features of Christian history, namely the modern ecumenical movement.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Eastern Christianity: a Reader

Justin Coyle, a young and formidably wise scholar whom one should keep an eye on in the years ahead and of whom one continues to expect great things, kindly writes the other day to draw my attention to a book set for release later this year: Eastern Christianity: A Reader by J. Edward Walters (Eerdmans, November 2021), 448pp.

I am especially gratified to see that "Eastern" here actually means (as it too rarely does) "east of Byzantium." Thus we see a wonderful array from some of the richest, oldest, but frequently overlooked traditions often grouped under the heading of "Oriental" or "non-Chalcedonian" Orthodox. This will certainly be the kind of book useful in survey courses, and required in every serious library devoted to the Christian East. 

This volume offers, the publisher tells us,

English translations of Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Arabic, Coptic, and Ethiopic Christian texts from late antiquity to the early modern period 

In order to make the writings of Eastern Christianity more widely accessible this volume offers a collection of significant texts from various Eastern Christian traditions, many of which are appearing in English for the first time. The internationally renowned scholars behind these translations begin each section with an informative historical introduction, so that anyone interested in learning more about these understudied groups can more easily traverse their diverse linguistic, cultural, and literary traditions. A boon to scholars, students, and general readers, this ample resource expands the scope of Christian history so that communities beyond Western Christendom can no longer be ignored.

We are also given the table of contents:


Chapter One: Syriac

Introduction to Syriac Christianity

     General Bibliography for Syriac Christianity

     1. The Doctrina Addai

     2. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns against Heresies 3 and 53

     3. Martyrdom of Mīles, Abursam, and Sinay

     4. Jacob of Serug, The Fourth Homily on Cain and Abel

     5. Narsai, On the Canaanite Woman

     6. Simeon of Beth Arsham, Letter on the Ḥimyarite Martyrs

     7. The Syriac Life of Mary of Egypt

     8. Timothy I, Letter 47

     9. Theodore bar Koni, Scholion, Mēmrā 10 (selection)

Chapter Two: Armenian

     Introduction to Armenian Christianity

     General Bibliography for Armenian Christianity

     1. Koriwn, The Life of Mashtotsʿ

     2. Eznik of Koghb, Refutation of the Sects (or, On God)

     3. The Teaching of Saint Grigor

     4. Anania of Narek, On This Transitory World

     5. Grigor of Narek, Book of Lamentation, Discourse 1, Discourse 88

     6. Nersēs Shnorhali, Hymn for the Sunrise Hour, Instructional Preface to a Prayer of Nersēs, Prayer of Nersēs

Chapter Three: Georgian

     Introduction to Georgian Christianity

     General Bibliography for Georgian Christianity

     1. Martyrdom of St. Shushanik

     2. John Sabanisże, Martyrdom of Habo, the Perfumer from Baghdad

     3. The Lives of John the Iberian, Euthymios the Athonite, and George the Athonite

     4. The Life of Porphyry of Gaza

Chapter Four: Arabic

     Introduction to Arabic Christianity

     General Bibliography for Arabic Christianity

     1. Homilies on the Gospel Readings for Holy Week

     2. Theodore Abū Qurrah, That God Is Not Weak

     3. The Disputation of Abraham of Tiberias

     4. Ḥunayn Ibn Isḥāq, How to Discern the True Religion

     5. Miracles of Saint George

     6. Commentary on the Pentateuch

Chapter Five: Coptic

     Introduction to Coptic Christianity

     General Bibliography for Coptic Christianity

     1. Life of Pachomius

     2. Shenoute of Atripe, I Have Been Reading the Holy Gospels

     3. Pseudo-Dioscorus of Alexandria, Encomium on Macarius of Tkōou

     4. The Anaphora of Saint Thomas the Apostle

     5. Christophoria, Letter to the Comes Mena

     6. John of Paralos, Homily on the Archangel Michael and the Blasphemous Books of the Heretics

     7. Pseudo-Cyril of Alexandria, Encomium Interpreting Part of the Apocalypse of John the Apostle of Christ Jesus

Chapter Six: Ethiopic

     Introduction to Ethiopic Christianity

     General Bibliography for Ethiopic Christianity

     1. Select Inscriptions of ˁEzana

     2. Homily on Frumentius

     3. Synaxarion on Yared

     4. Glory of the Kings (Kǝbrä Nägäśt) (selection)

     5. Hildephonsus, Bishop of Toledo, Miracles of Mary

     6. Zärˀä Yaˁəqob, Book of the Trinity

     7. Prayer Amulet: MS Duke Ethiopic 15

Friday, March 26, 2021

Byzantine Religious Law in Southern Italy

Coming out in May of this year is a book that focuses on those fascinating proto-ecumenical encounters of Eastern Christians with their Western counterparts in the latter's territories when the former were cut off from their own hierarchs: James Morton, Byzantine Religious Law in Medieval Italy (Oxford University Press, 2021), 336pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us this:

Southern Italy was conquered by the Norman Hauteville dynasty in the late eleventh century after over five hundred years of continuous Byzantine rule. At a stroke, the region's Greek Christian inhabitants were cut off from their Orthodox compatriots in Byzantium and became subject to the spiritual and legal jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic popes. Nonetheless, they continued to follow the religious laws of the Byzantine church; out of thirty-six surviving manuscripts of Byzantine canon law produced between the tenth and fourteenth centuries, the majority date to the centuries after the Norman conquest.

Byzantine Religious Law in Medieval Italy is a historical study of these manuscripts, exploring how and why the Greek Christians of medieval southern Italy persisted in using them so long after the end of Byzantine rule. The first part of the book provides an overview of the source material and the history of Italo-Greek Christianity. The second part examines the development of Italo-Greek canon law manuscripts from the last century of Byzantine rule to the late twelfth century, arguing that the Normans' opposition to papal authority created a laissez faire atmosphere in which Greek Christians could continue to follow Byzantine religious law unchallenged. Finally, the third part analyses the papacy's successful efforts to assert its jurisdiction over southern Italy in the later Middle Ages. While this brought about the end of Byzantine canon law as an effective legal system in the region, the Italo-Greeks still drew on their legal heritage to explain and justify their distinctive religious rites to their Latin neighbours.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Christian Adaptations of and to Muslim Governance

I have previously drawn attention to the fascinating books of the historian Phillip Wood who treats early Muslim-Christian encounters in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. He has another book coming out later next month that I am greatly looking forward to reading: The Imam of the Christians: The World of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre, c. 750–850  (Princeton University Press, April 2021), 304pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us this:

How Christian leaders adapted the governmental practices and political thought of their Muslim rulers in the Abbasid caliphate

The Imam of the Christians examines how Christian leaders adopted and adapted the political practices and ideas of their Muslim rulers between 750 and 850 in the Abbasid caliphate in the Jazira (modern eastern Turkey and northern Syria). Focusing on the writings of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre, the patriarch of the Jacobite church, Philip Wood describes how this encounter produced an Islamicate Christianity that differed from the Christianities of Byzantium and western Europe in far more than just theology. In doing so, Wood opens a new window on the world of early Islam and Muslims’ interactions with other religious communities.

Wood shows how Dionysus and other Christian clerics, by forging close ties with Muslim elites, were able to command greater power over their coreligionists, such as the right to issue canons regulating the lives of lay people, gather tithes, and use state troops to arrest opponents. In his writings, Dionysius advertises his ease in the courts of Abdallah ibn Tahir in Raqqa and the caliph al-Ma’mun in Baghdad, presenting himself as an effective advocate for the interests of his fellow Christians because of his knowledge of Arabic and his ability to redeploy Islamic ideas to his own advantage. Strikingly, Dionysius even claims that, like al-Ma’mun, he is an imam since he leads his people in prayer and rules them by popular consent.

A wide-ranging examination of Middle Eastern Christian life during a critical period in the development of Islam, The Imam of the Christians is also a case study of the surprising workings of cultural and religious adaptation.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Handbook of Theological Anthropology

Released just last month under the editorship of Mary Ann Hinsdale  and Stephen Okey, the T&T Clark Handbook of Theological Anthropology features chapters on such towering Eastern figures as Irenaeus and Gregory of Nyssa, as well as chapters on other very topical and current challenges.  

About this book the publisher tells us this: 

Including classical, modern, and postmodern approaches to theological anthropology, this volume covers the entire spectrum of thought on the doctrines of creation, the human person as imago Dei, sin, and grace.

The editors have gathered an exceptionally diverse range of voices, ensuring ecumenical balance (Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox) and the inclusion of previously neglected perspectives (women, African American, Asian, Latinx, and LGBTQ). The contributors revisit authors from the “Great Tradition” (early church, medieval, and modern), and discuss them alongside critical and liberationist approaches (ranging from feminist, decolonial, and intersectional theory to critical race theory and queer performance theory). This is a much-needed overview of a rapidly evolving field.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Red Theology

Being Christian (and, worse, being an American Christian) does not prevent one from succumbing to politically tendentious mythologies and stupid ideas, including the claims that capitalism is reconcilable with Christianity, and socialism and communism are inherently opposed to it. A new book upends many of those silly assumptions: Roland Boer, Red Theology: On the Christian Communist Tradition  (Haymarket, 2020), 294pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us this:

In Red Theology: On the Christian Communist Tradition, Roland Boer presents key moments in the 2,000 year tradition of Christian communism. Defined by the two features of alternative communal practice and occasional revolutionary action, Christian communism is predicated on profound criticism of the way of the world. The book begins with Karl Kautsky―the leading thinker of second-generation Marxism―and his oft-ignored identification of this tradition. From there, it offers a series of case studies that deal with European instances, the Russian Revolution, and to East Asia. Here we find the emergence of Christian communism not only in China, but also in North Korea. This book will be a vital resource for scholars and students of religion and the many aspects of socialist tradition.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Syriac Christian Culture

The always-fascinating Syriac tradition constitutes, in the charmingly inapt metaphor of the great Syracist Sebastian Brock of Oxford, the "third lung" of Christianity, offering a unique perspective alongside the Latins in the West and the Greeks in the near-East. The Syriac tradition's riches are on offer in a new book released this month: Syriac Christian Culture: Beginnings to Renaissanceeds. Aaron Michael Butts and Robin Darling Young (Catholic University of America Press, 2021), 400pp.

About this collection the publisher tells us this: 

Syriac Christianity developed in the first centuries CE in the Middle East, where it continued to flourish throughout Late Antiquity and the Medieval period, while also spreading widely, as far as India and China. Today, Syriac Christians are found in the Middle East, in India, as well in diasporas scattered across the globe. Over this extended time period and across this vast geographic expanse, Syriac Christians have built impressive churches and monasteries, crafted fine pieces of art, and written and transmitted a sizable body of literature. Though often overlooked, neglected, and even persecuted, Syriac Christianity has been – and continues to be – an important part of the humanistic heritage of the last two millennia.

The present volume brings together fourteen studies that offer fresh perspectives on Syriac Christianity, especially its literary texts and authors. The timeframes of the individual studies span from the second-century Syriac translation of the Hebrew Bible up to the thirteenth century with the end of the Syriac Renaissance. Several studies analyze key authors from Late Antiquity, such as Aphrahat, Ephrem, Narsai, and Jacob of Serugh. Others investigate translations into Syriac, both from Hebrew and from Greek, while still others examine hagiography, especially its formation and transmission. Reflecting a growing trend in the field, the volume also devotes significant attention to the Medieval period, during which Syriac Christians lived under Islamic rule. The studies in the volume are united in their quest to explore the richness, diversity, and vibrance of Syriac Christianity.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Christians under the Crescent and Muslims under the Cross c.630 - 1923

I previously posted a brief notice about this book, Christians under the Crescent and Muslims under the Cross c.630 - 1923 by Luigi Berto (Routledge, 2020), 178pp. I have now had a chance to read it, and as soon as I did made the decision on the spot to adopt it for my course Eastern Christian Encounters with Islam. It is the rare book that does all the things I need a book to do for teaching undergraduates, but this book superbly accomplishes them all:

  • it is written in cogent, clear English
  • it is without an obvious agenda, especially an apologetic one
  • it is relatively brief
  • it avoids getting lost in the notes and apparatus, which undergrads often find bewildering
  • it captures the messiness of history--the "nobody has clean hands" approach
  • it is reasonably affordable in a paperback edition.
My course has struggled over the years to find suitable texts. Some are far too apologetic and almost polemical; some are only partially useful; some were useful for a time but more recent scholarship or events on the ground (e.g., the Arab Spring) made much of them out of date. So to find this book is a great gift and I am very much looking forward to teaching with it.

The publisher's description of the book follows:

This book examines the status that rulers of one faith conferred onto their subjects belonging to a different one, how the rulers handled relationships with them, and the interactions between subjects of the Muslim and Christian religions.

The chronological arc of this volume spans from the first conquests by the Arabs in the Near East in the 630s to the exchange between Turkey and Greece, in 1923, of the Orthodox Christians and Muslims residing in their territories. Through organized topics, Berto analyzes both similarities and differences in Christian and Muslim lands and emphasizes how coexistences and conflicts took directions that were not always inevitable. Primary sources are used to examine the mentality of those who composed them and of their audiences. In doing so, the book considers the nuances and all the features of the multifaceted experiences of Christian subjects under Muslim rule and of Muslim subjects under Christian rule.

Christians under the Crescent and Muslims under the Cross is the ideal resource for upper-level undergraduates, postgraduates, and scholars interested in the relationships between Christians and Muslims, religious minorities, and the Near East and the Mediterranean from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century.

Friday, March 12, 2021

A Potpouri of Books

I will give the credit to Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory for reminding me many years ago now that the one who studies and teaches theology, and who reads nothing but, is going to be a very intellectually impoverished teacher indeed. I don't know if I needed his imprimatur or not, but I have never had any trouble maintaining very active interests in all sorts of other areas both for their own sake, but also because they shed real and useful light on a context in which, say, some Eastern Christian group found itself, or some issue--e.g., socioeconomic conditions--which has an obvious impact on any Christian teachings about poverty and justice. 

In any event, I resume here some intermittent jottings I have done over the past year, highlighting books I spy while reading the London Review of Books and now also the New York Review of Books, copies of which are very portable and should always be kept at hand for when you find yourself waiting in some doctor's office or stuck on some tedious Zoom meeting. Employing your manservant, or one of your children, to hold the current issue at the same height as, but just out of sight of, your camera ensures you can look like you are paying rapt attention to the meeting while happily reading about some interesting new book. Or so others who have tried this technique tell me.....

In any event, there are just some thoughts from reading reviews of new books in the last several issues (in no especial order) of both periodicals. I am way behind in doing this, so I will give you some samples from issues going back to early December and coming forward to the most recent. I have not read the books themselves, but make notes here of especially interesting ones I hope some day, money and time allowing, to track down and read and which, moreover, I hope might likewise be of interest to you.

Eastern Christians, including especially a lot of Ukrainian Catholics, know only too well the problem of being a displaced person, a stateless being. I have several friends whose families found themselves in DP camps across Europe in1945, and sometimes for several years before they were gradually allowed to make their way to North America or the United Kingdom.

It was with great interest, then, that I read in the 17 December 2020 issue of the NYRB a review of two new books that reveal the problem of statelessness has not gone away, and the peril and acute vulnerability of such peoples even today is very bad indeed. The first book is Mira L. Siegelberg's Statelessness: A Modern History. The second is Dimitry Kochenov's Citizenship

The Second World War shows up later in this issue with a review essay discussing two new books: Roger Morehouse's Poland 1939: the Outbreak of World War II; and then Florian Huber, "Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself": The Mass Suicide of Ordinary Germans in 1945, trans. Imogen Taylor. The former book sounds like it covers well-trod territory, but the latter book explored mass death in a way, on a scale, and in an area I was far less familiar with. 

In the same issue I read with interest--as I have two friends, one with family there and the other having served with the US Marines there--a book about Okinawa: Akemi Johnson's Night in the American Village: Women in the Shadow of the US Military Bases in Okinawa. Whatever utility this (and many other bases of the oft-disguised American Empire) may once have played sounds long ago now and in the present we instead have a place of myriad pathologies, including sexual violence and murder. 

This issue also contains a review of The Essential Scalia: on the Constitution, the Courts, and the Rule of Law. Not being either a citizen or a legal scholar, I have little to say about American jurisprudence, but Scalia was an entertaining personality who could turn a phrase, so I often listened to him or read parts of his opinions in these latter years before his death in 2016. 

From the 11 March 2021 issue of the NYRB, I note a fascinating new book devoted to the study of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King JR together: Brandon Terry reviews the new book of Peniel Joseph, The Sword and the Shield: the Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. 

From the same issue I note a review of Angels and Saints, a lavishly and beautifully illustrated book that the NYRB reviewer, along with one in the New York Times, have both raved about. The publisher has this to say about the book:

Angels have soared through Western culture and consciousness from Biblical to contemporary times. But what do we really know about these celestial beings? Where do they come from, what are they made of, how do they communicate and perceive? The celebrated essayist Eliot Weinberger has mined and deconstructed, resurrected and distilled centuries of theology into an awe-inspiring exploration of the heavenly host.

From a litany of angelic voices, Weinberger’s lyrical meditation then turns to the earthly counterparts, the saints, their lives retold in a series of vibrant and playful capsule biographies, followed by a glimpse of the afterlife. Threaded throughout Angels & Saints are the glorious illuminated grid poems by the eighteenth-century Benedictine monk Hrabanus Maurus. These astonishingly complex, proto-“concrete” poems are untangled in a lucid afterword by the medieval scholar and historian Mary Wellesley.

The same essay in the NYRB also discusses T.M. Luhrmann's new book How God Becomes Real: Kindling the Presence of Invisible Others, which looks at these questions around the world, but pays special attention to American evangelicals and their strange beliefs and peculiar fetishes, of which I need no convincing. 

There is a hilarious review by Ruth Bernard Yeazell of Anthony M. Amore's new book The Woman Who Stole Vermeer: the True Story of Rose Dugdale and the Russborough Art Theft that takes us into all the strange and fascinating ways of the English aristocracy and their country houses, the absurd (and now discontinued) spectacle of their young women being "presented at court," and then the highly unusual turn of events when one such young woman stoll a Vermeer painting from her own family's country seat to sell the profits to aid the IRA with which she became involved. 

Nicholson Baker's new book sounds, from this review, about as depressing as you would imagine given the ever increasing capacity of governments to spy and then lie: Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act.

Catching up with the London Review of Books from its 17 December 2020 issue, I note a review of a fascinating new book by Robert Gerwarth, November 1918: the German Revolution. The First World War has long been far more fascinating to me than the second, and this book discusses aspects of the immediate post-war period I knew only in the vaguest outline. The myth of the "stab in the back" of Germany was seeded by Luddendorf in late 1918 before the imperial abdication and request for an armistice. 

This issue of the LRB reviews two new books about Lincoln, but before doing so, the reviewer, Eric Foner, notes that since his death in 1865, Lincoln has been featured in more than 16,000 books in English. The first of the new ones is David S. Reynolds, Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times; while the second one is H.W. Brands, The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom.

Finally, and briefly, I note the LRB reviews two new memoirs by politically prominent women: Barbara Amiel, Friends and Enemies: A Memoir; and Sacha Swire, Diary of an MP's Wife: Inside and Outside Power. 

I used to read Amiel occasionally when I lived in Canada and she wrote for Maclean's. I read her husband, Conrad Black, more frequently until he became a tedious blowhard writing paeans to Trump in exchange for favours rendered. The reviewer of Amiel's book says she, too, has become utterly tedious in her preoccupation with smiting enemies and settling scores.

That said, I will give credit to Black for an early book of his, which remains useful to those trying to understand the rapid and thoroughgoing collapse of Catholicism in Quebec after 1960, when it went from being as or even more intensely Catholic than Poland, Ireland, or Brazil: Render unto Caesar: The life and legacy of Maurice Duplessis shows that the theocratic (and frequently sinister) marriage between the Church and Quebec state is arguably the biggest reason behind the collapse inaugurated by the Quiet Revolution. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Shepherd of Hermas

The Shepherd of Hermas is a wild ride. I enjoy watching students try to figure out how to interpret the text when I have assigned it over the years. Its relative neglect in 21st-century scholarship is about to change next month with the publication of The Shepherd of Hermas: A Literary, Historical, and Theological Handbook by Jonathon Lookadoo (T&T Clark, April 2021), 312pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us this:
Jonathon Lookadoo guides readers through the early Christian apocalypse known as the Shepherd of Hermas, providing a clear overview of the numerous literary, historical, and theological insights that this text contains for those researching early Christianity.
Dividing his exploration into two sections, Lookadoo first introduces the Shepherd by providing an overview of the text to those with limited familiarity, while also focusing on critical issues such as authorship, date, and the Shepherd's complex manuscript tradition and reception history. He then moves to examine the interpretation of particular passages in detail, and by close exploration of theological and literary features he is able to contextualize the Shepherd alongside contemporary contexts. This volume covers the important thematic issues in the Shepherd, and also provides a fresh perspective that arises from a thoroughly textual focus; in so doing, Lookadoo enables readers to engage both with the Shepherd itself and the scholarship that surrounds the text.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Russian Christianity and its Place in Global Christianity

Scott Kenworthy writes deeply learned, but accessible and always fascinating, books on Russian Orthodox Christianity that are always worth your time. So when I learned from him recently that he had teamed up with another author to contribute to an ongoing series, I knew it would be worth my time to read Understanding World Christianity: Russia by Scott M. Kenworthy and Alexander S. Agadjanian (Fortress Press, 2021), 311pp. 

This is part of an ongoing series of books, at least one of whose earlier publications, that devoted to India, will of course be relevant to Eastern Christians given the very great diversity of them in India

About this newest installment, the publisher tells us this:

Christianity is a global religion. It's a fact that is too often missed or ignored in many books and conversations. In a world where Christianity is growing everywhere but in the West, the Understanding World Christianity series offers a fresh, readable orientation to Christianity around the world. Understanding World Christianity is organized geographically, by nation and region. Noted experts, in most cases native to the area of focus, present a balanced history of Christianity and a detailed discussion of the faith as it is lived today. Each volume addresses six key "intersections" of Christianity in a given context, including the historical, denominational, sociopolitical, geographical, biographical, and theological settings. Understanding World Christianity: Russia offers a compelling glimpse into the vibrant and complex picture of Christianity in the Russian context. It's an ideal introduction for students, mission leaders, and any others who wish to know how Christianity influences, and is influenced by, the Russian context.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Married Priests in the Catholic Church

April is just around the corner, and that means that you can soon order my next book, Married Priests in the Catholic Church, which the University of Notre Dame Press is bringing out.

About this international and ecumenical collection, you should know this:

These essays offer a historically rigorous dismantling of Western claims about the superiority of celibate priests.

Although celibacy is often seen as a distinctive feature of the Catholic priesthood, both Catholic and Orthodox Churches in fact have rich and diverse traditions of married priests. The essays contained in Married Priests in the Catholic Church offer the most comprehensive treatment of these traditions to date. These essays, written by a wide-ranging group that includes historians, pastors, theologians, canon lawyers, and the wives and children of married Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox priests, offer diverse perspectives from many countries and traditions on the subject, including personal, historical, theological, and canonical accounts. As a collection, these essays push especially against two tendencies in thinking about married priesthood today. Against the idea that a married priesthood would solve every problem in Catholic clerical culture, this collection deromanticizes and demythologizes the notion of married priesthood. At the same time, against distinctively modern theological trends that posit the superiority, apostolicity, and “ontological” necessity of celibate priests, this collection refutes the claim that priestly ordination and celibacy must be so closely linked.

In addressing the topic of married priesthood from both practical and theoretical angles, and by drawing on a variety of perspectives, Married Priests in the Catholic Church will be of interest to a wide audience, including historians, theologians, canon lawyers, and seminary professors and formators, as well as pastors, parish leaders, and laypeople.

Contributors: Adam A. J. DeVille, David G. Hunter, Dellas Oliver Herbel, James S. Dutko, Patrick Viscuso, Alexander M. Laschuk, John Hunwicke, Edwin Barnes, Peter Galadza, David Meinzen, Julian Hayda, Irene Galadza, Nicholas Denysenko, William C. Mills, Andrew Jarmus, Thomas J. Loya, Lawrence Cross, and Basilio Petrà.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Handbook of Septuagint Research

Just released last month, this new T&T Clark Handbook of Septuagint Research, eds. William A. Ross  and W. Edward Glenny (T&T Clark, 2021), 512pp. is just the sort of collection aimed at Eastern Christians above all, for we have kept the LXX in official and unofficial use well beyond anything found in the West for centuries. 

About this collection the publisher tells us this:

Students and scholars now widely recognize the importance of the Septuagint to the history of the Greek language, the textual development of the Bible, and to Jewish and Christian religious life in both the ancient and modern worlds. This handbook is designed for those who wish to engage the Septuagint in their research, yet have been unsure where to turn for guidance or concise, up-to-date discussion. The contributors break down the barriers involved in the technical debates and sub-specialties as far as possible, equipping readers with the tools and knowledge necessary to conduct their own research.

Each chapter is written by a leading Septuagint scholar and focuses upon a major area of research in the discipline, providing an overview of the topic, key debates and views, a survey or demonstration of the methods involved, and pointers towards ongoing research questions. By exploring origins, language, text, reception, theology, translation, and commentary, with a final summary of the literature, this handbook encourages active engagement with the most important issues in the field and provides an essential resource for specialists and non-specialists alike.

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Women of Soviet Catacombs

I almost avoided posting this notice of a forthcoming book for I am beyond tired of certain people traducing Soviet history in their transparently tendentious manner to scare us into thinking we shall soon see gulags erected in the United States any day now for these self-proclaimed Christians who adhere, with ostentatious sanctimony, to certain views on sex and gender which, they hope--not disguising their alarmingly overdeveloped sadomasochistic urges--will get them clapped in irons and subject to floggings and other tortures.

Nevertheless, we must not penalize the work of legitimate scholars narrating genuine history simply for fear of giving fodder to certain adolescent bloggers and their tiresome fetishes. Thus we can look forward, later this month, to the official release of Women of the Catacombs: Memoirs of the Underground Orthodox Church in Stalin's Russia, trans. Wallace L. Daniel  (Northern Illinois University Press, March 2021), 252pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:

The memoirs presented in Women of the Catacombs offer a rare close-up account of the underground Orthodox community and its priests during some of the most difficult years in Russian history. The catacomb church in the Soviet Union came into existence in the 1920s and played a significant part in Russian national life for nearly fifty years. Adherents to the Orthodox faith often referred to the catacomb church as the "light shining in the dark." Women of the Catacombs provides a first-hand portrait of lived religion in its social, familial, and cultural setting during this tragic period.

Until now, scholars have had only brief, scattered fragments of information about Russia's illegal church organization that claimed to protect the purity of the Orthodox tradition. Vera Iakovlevna Vasilevskaia and Elena Semenovna Men, who joined the church as young women, offer evidence on how Russian Orthodoxy remained a viable, alternative presence in Soviet society, when all political, educational, and cultural institutions attempted to indoctrinate Soviet citizens with an atheistic perspective. Wallace L. Daniel's translation not only sheds light on Russia's religious and political history, but also shows how two educated women maintained their personal integrity in times when prevailing political and social headwinds moved in an opposite direction.

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