The Church Times had a very nice review of Schlingensiepen's new Bonhoeffer biography last Friday. It is now available online. I would not have thought that one could cover Boswell and Johnson and also Abaelard and Heloise in a review of a book on Bonhoeffer, but there you go...
"Few people, since the time of Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, have been as
fortunate in their biographers as Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Eberhard Bethge. His
is, and will remain, the standard life by a friend, a kinsman, and a companion.
Still, as he himself admitted, a book of more than 1000 pages is too long for
many readers, and in any case perspectives have changed since 1967, new material
has come to light, and an author can no longer take for granted an immediate
knowledge of the complexities of life in both Church and State in the Third
The need for a shorter study was met in 1992 by Renate Wind’s A Spoke
in the Wheel; and Ferdinand Schlingensiepen now meets our other needs with
this equally admirable work. It is a standard biography in 12 chronological
chapters, starting with Bonhoeffer’s privileged birth in the noonday of the
cultural élite of Wilhelminian Germany, and ending with his horrific death on
the gallows in the twilight of a truly evil empire.
It was not only faith in Jesus Christ, but also the inner security that
he gained from his family, his education, and his position in society, which
gave him the inner strength progressively to detach himself from the
particularities of class, nation, and denomination in order to become a “man for
others”, and thus to belong to us all as a teacher and martyr of the universal
Bethge was writing when it was still necessary to convince a sceptical
German public that the conspirators against Adolf Hitler were not traitors but
true patriots. Schlingensiepen emphasises rather the explicit connection that
Bonhoeffer made between theology and political action. “It was theological
thinking and decisions that made this Confessing Church pastor a member of the
He has made excellent use of newly opened archives of both the Resistance
and the Confessing Church, on the one hand, and of the various competing,
gangsterish institutions of Hitler’s Germany, on the other.
Bonhoeffer’s correspondence with his fiancée, the talented and spirited Maria
von Wedemeyer, which was not available to Bethge, deepens and humanises the
portraiture. They were never alone together during their engagement, which
consisted of “eighteen agonizing farewells”; and yet this is a love-story to
set beside that of Hélöise and Abelard."
Here is the second in my current series of guest blogs. This is from David Horrell (Exeter) who writes about the recent publication 'Ecological Hermeneutics' which he co-edited with Cherryl Hunt, Christopher Southgate, and Francesca Stavrakopoulou.
"It’s pretty clear that environmental issues of one sort or another will remain at the centre of global political and ethical concern for the foreseeable future. Despite a disappointing outcome at Copenhagen, and a certain wave of scepticism, climate change remains a key issue calling for decisive and coordinated action. This week in the UK, the papers have carried news of a new report analysing the costs of sustaining biodiversity and preserving species and habitats. Although, as with climate change, the costs of acting are huge, the costs of not acting are, in the long run, far more massive, and the report calls for economic incentives and market structures to prioritize the preservation of biodiversity. All this is reason enough for theologians to engage with questions about environmental ethics. Yet an equally pressing reason is the suspicion, long voiced as a criticism, that the Christian tradition has contributed to our crisis, by fostering attitudes of superiority and indifference towards the earth.
Between 2006 and 2009, a three year project at the University of Exeter, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, studied uses of the Bible in environmental ethics (see here). The project aimed to examine the kinds of appeal to the Bible made in relation to environmental issues, to assess the critical questions about the impact of the biblical tradition on Christian views of the environment, and to develop creative readings of the Bible that would help to reconfigure Christian theology in ways appropriate to the challenges of our time.
In response to Thomas's assertions about the 'Catholic' nature of some of my posts I thought I would retaliate with this, thereby possibly proving Thomas right with another plug for Dom Henry Wansbrough's book - but also by displaying my charming statue of St Peter which I bought in jest in Rome last year (when I was there for the ISBL). We are very lucky at T&T Clark that the PC bridgade so obsessed with stopping nurses from wearing crucifixes is yet to demand that we remove our icons, statues, busts, and general kitsch from our desks. If anyone tries to remove my picture of Cardinal Pole then all hell will break loose.
On a serious note, I'd like to publicly congratulate Dom Henry on having the bestselling book on the biblical studies list this year. It has also been topping Amazon's bestseller list in the category of 'Biblical Hermeneutics' periodically. The book is currently out of stock, and reprinting for the second time. Not bad considering that we only published it in February.
On a more serious note, and tying in with the excellent news about the Wesley companion, for you Wesley fans there is a chapter in 'The Use and Abuse of the Bible' on the Wesleys' use of scripture in their hymns.
When I returned from a short holiday last week I found the first copy of our new T&T Clark Companions on my desk: The T&T Clark Companion to Methodism. I must confess I was very impressed with the result. It looks wonderful.We took a photograph of a little arrangement on my desk of the new title with my small bust of John Wesley (which I need in the office not only because I have a soft spot for the man but to outweigh and cast out the spirits of Catholicism that come from Dominic's end ...).
More information on the book and a preview are available here.
Forthcoming volumes in the series are: T&T Clark Companion to Reformation Theology (ed. by David Whitford) T&T Clark Companion to Nonconformism (ed. by Robert Pope and Densil Morgan) T&T Clark Companion to Augustine and Modern Theology (ed. by C. C. Pecknold and Tarmo Toom)
I am very pleased to announce that ‘An Introduction to Second Temple Judaism’ has just been published.
This volume is based on ‘An Introduction to First Century Judaism’, Lester Grabbe’s earlier work, but the material has been revised and considerably expanded.
This new edition has been restructured making it more accessible for students, and Grabbe seems to have everyone in mind as he says: '… so what I am doing in this much briefer study is to try to introduce the beginner – the student, the educated lay person, the non-specialist – to the subject’. Indeed, bibliographies and reading lists have been updated, as well as a new introductory section, which offers an overview of the period, has been added.
I think a short extract from the Preface will give a better taste for its contents:
‘Chapter 1 provides an overview of Jewish history for the Second Temple period (though some periods are treated more fully in later chapters) and then discusses the main sources. It is important that the reader take note of where we get our knowledge of the Judaism of this time. There is no magical key to understanding Judaism during this era. We are all dependent on a handful of sources from which most of our knowledge comes. After the introductory chapter, the next four chapters look at various ‘currents’ or streams within Judaism. By treating them as moving streams we begin to see the dynamic aspect of Jewish history and realize that much of it is produced by the interaction of various movements. So I discuss textual Judaism (chapter 2), revolutionary Judaism (chapter 3), eschatological Judaism (chapter 4), and the strange phenomenon known as Gnosticism which seems to have Jewish roots (chapter 5). Together they encompass most facets of Judaism of the time.
What will soon become clear to the reader is that the idea of ‘orthodoxy’ or a ‘state church’ is not a good way of looking at Judaism before 70. British readers need to put the model of the Church of England out of mind. There was a centre to the religion: worship at the Jerusalem temple. Most Jews accepted the sacredness of the temple and the general teachings of the Torah. But there was no official orthodoxy (in the Christian sense), for it is clear that there were many interpretations of the Torah and many different views about how to apply the law outside the temple (within the temple, the priests were in control). Thus, each of the chapters 2-5 tells us about one aspect of Judaism, but as will soon be apparent the various currents are not isolated entities. On the contrary, a single individual may have been a part of more than one current. A study of one particular current helps us to understand one aspect of Judaism, while the study of all four discussed here provides a quite comprehensive picture of Judaism - albeit, a complex picture, like a mosaic with many different parts.’
This book will be a core text for courses on the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, as well as Qumran, Intertestamental Literature and Early Judaism.
Readers in the UK can purchase this volume right now and will be available in the US at the beginning of August 2010.
Things are happening quickly with Maurice Casey's major new life of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. The book is a 600 page comprehensive assessment of the quests for the historical Jesus and what we can say about Jesus, which is valuably informed by Maurice's unrivalled knowledge of Aramaic. The other exciting thing is that Maurice takes the American Jesus Seminar to task a bit in this book. We are already at first proof stage so we should certainly have a big a stack of the book at SBL in Atlanta. I will hope to have a bound proof at the summer conferences.
Here's the first cover visual to whet your appetites.
Corneliu gave a lecture on the subject of the book, and then discussed it with Professor Haddon Willmer and Wonsuk Ma.
Corneliu views Paul's concept of reconciliation as complex and dynamic, arguing through close analysis of Romans 5-8 and 9-12, that there is a real social dimension to Paul's writing on reconcilation rather than it simply being a pronouncement of God's reconciling the world. Corneliu considers the impact of this reading of Romans upon issues of community formation, and the shaping of identity both at the time of Paul and in a modern environment.
I enjoyed visiting OCMS - having lived in Oxford for four years and always wondered what was inside the converted church on Woodstock Road. It's a very interesting conversion, which leaves the main church features still in tact, including the sanctuary. It makes for a dramatic, and striking environment.