Colloquium 36.1 (2004)
SHADES OF SHEOL: DEATH AND AFTERLIFE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Philip S. Johnson
(Leicester: Apollos/ Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2002) 288pp.
ISBN 0851112668/ 0830826874
Issues in interpretation of Old Testament passages relating to death and the afterlife have been a focus of much writing in journals, multi-author works, and commentaries. Insights from and comparison with ancient Near Eastern material have been a feature. However, other than dictionary articles, there has been an almost total lack of any monograph that competently presents the data and discussion in accessible form. For many the understanding of Old Testament statements remains that expressed in Christian liturgy and hymnody.
Johnson has an excellent track record in the area, with theses for both MTh (1988) from Belfast and PhD (1993) from Cambridge [a summary of the latter is in Tyndale Bulletin 45 (1994) 415–19]. But this is more than a belatedly published thesis, although it has the strengths of that background. He describes (18–19) how he has rewritten, reshaped, added sections and also pruned! Johnson has kept up with the literature and debates: the thirty page bibliography (241–72) lists works to 2001 (the great majority post-1980). Further, all of these are cited somewhere in the text. Spot checks point to genuine interaction rather than simply updating citations. The careful interaction with others is a boon for a reader who wishes to pursue any point further.
The work is divided broadly into four parts: (A) death in general – descriptions, reflections, burial and mourning practices (23–65); (B) the underworld, realm of the dead – unwelcome and threatening, is "earth" or "water" the underworld? (69–124); (C) the dead and their relationship with the living – naming, consulting and honouring the dead (127–95); and (D) the afterlife – communion beyond death and resurrection in both Israelite literature and the ancient Near East (199–239). The five page table of contents enables ready access to discussion on specific topics and passages, supported by author and text indexes (273–88). Throughout he adroitly guides the reader through the trees, never losing sight of the wood.
He describes accurately his intention that material "be accessible to all readers familiar with the issues of biblical scholarship, from relative beginners in theological study to seasoned scholars" (19). It does require some background in Old Testament studies and understanding of exegetical methods – or at least ability to look at texts in detail and in their literary and cultural context. Of necessity there is discussion of Hebrew and other Semitic languages and occasionally Greek (LXX), all given in transliteration. Some help is given on pp. 19–20 for general readers not familiar with transliteration conventions.
In keeping with his aim, the work is detailed, but not dense. The presentation is clear and there is fair and judicious presentation of various views. Tables provided are a model that other writers could well emulate! Thus on p. 100, in discussion of the common suggestion that ’eres@ ("earth") occasionally means "underworld", there is a table listing the verses under discussion and showing which are seen to mean "underworld" by various scholars. Here in particular he discusses the views of Dahood and Tromp, using Ugaritic cognates. This section illustrates his approach and careful conclusions: he arranges the verses in groups according to likely meaning, discusses each in turn, and concludes that while some texts could have this meaning, "there is none which demands, and therefore proves, this interpretation. Further, no ancient version or tradition testifies to such a meaning. Thus it is wiser to conclude that ’eres@@ is not a Hebrew term for the underworld" (114). Conclusions to other sections are similarly nuanced.
Because of my current teaching I was interested to see how he treated the incident of Saul consulting the spirit of Samuel (1 Samuel 28). He clearly and masterly guides the reader through the passage and the maze of conflicting scholarly interpretations (154–58), concluding that "from its earliest period Israel saw necromancy as illegal but also effective. At the same time, the account presents necromancy as futile… It also reflects belief in the continued existence of the dead in some somnolent form" (158).
Many may turn first to Part D where he discusses passages which suggest some form of relationship with God after death, rather than simply some shadowy existence in Sheol. Again his argument is clear and helpful. He looks inter alia at Psalms 16, 49, 73, and Job 19, as well as Enoch and Elijah. Here too he is cautious: Enoch and Elijah "may have escaped death, but this had no obvious relevance to Israelite beliefs or aspirations" (216). The transition to the New Testament is seen more clearly in the discussion of resurrection. Here he distinguishes "occasional resuscitation (Elijah and Elisha)", promises of "national restoration" (Hosea 6:1–2 and Ezekiel 37:1–14), and "individual resurrection" (Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2), together with Psa 1:5 and Isa 53:10–12. After brief discussion of other Jewish writings and views of surrounding cultures, although he sees Israelite and Jewish knowledge of, for instance, "Canaanite traditions of dying-and-rising gods" and "Zoroastrian eschatology", he concludes that "Israelite resurrection belief emerged as distinctly Israelite… Old Testament eschatology has no concept of judgment after death… These issues [punishment or destruction of the wicked] may be the logical consequence… but they were not developed in the canonical texts… The non-canonical intertestamental literature testifies to increased interest and speculation… and for Christians the New Testament affirms the validity of some of this extrapolation. But the Old Testament stops short of this" (237). The distinctive Israelite feature was that passages that pointed to some future arose from the belief that "Yahweh would truly deliver his people… The details are left unexplored" (239).
It is apparent throughout that he seeks to understand the Old Testament writings in their own setting. At the same time, he allows that some passages may contain glimpses and implicit themes that could be developed by later Jewish and Christian writers. This careful nuancing will help many to hear the Old Testament voices in their own right, while being open to New Testament perspectives in the light of Christ’s resurrection.
Scholars and students alike will welcome Johnston’s work and it promises to be a valuable resource for many years to come, frequently taken from the shelf to see what is said on a particular passage of topic and used as a standard reference tool for writing and teaching.
Donald C. Raney II
(Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2003) ISBN 0773467831
Over the past two decades there has been an increasing interest in the Chronicler’s work. This is evidenced by the growth in the number of commentaries on Chronicles as a whole as well as specialist studies on particular aspects of this work. Although appreciating this growth of interest, Raney’s contention is that this growth is not matched by an appreciation of Chronicles as a historical work. His observation is that modern writers "give priority as a source to the Deuteronomic History, while viewing the work of the Chronicler as unreliable" (1). He contends that modern writers view the Chronicler’s work as a tendentious reworking of the Deuteronomic history which alters, adds and deletes from its more ‘reliable’ source. As such Chronicles is viewed as an unreliable source, which cannot be utilized in aiding the task of reconstructing the history of pre-exilic Israel.
In this work Raney seeks to challenge this prevailing assumption. He does this primarily by investigating how both histories relate the story of the Davidic kings. His stated concern however is "how the Biblical writers recorded history rather than with the history itself" (vi). He is less concerned with issues of "historical facts" than he is with what the separate works meant for their respective audiences.
The work is divided into six chapters: 1) History and the Old Testament, 2) Founding of the Davidic Monarchy, 3) The Division of the Davidic Monarchy, 4) From the Division to the Fall of the Northern Kingdom, 5) From the Fall of the Northern Kingdom to the Babylonian Exile, 6) Comparative evaluations of the Dtr and Chr as Historians. It contains a useful, extensive bibliography. However, the Subject index is only 1 page and is unlikely to be of much help.
The first chapter is foundational to Raney’s approach. He interacts with the debate regarding the meaning of "history" and suggests using different terms in referring to the past. He suggests that "history" be used to "refer to the actual events of the past", while "historiography" be used to describe "a kind of writing which seeks to tell the story of the events of the past in a way that speaks to the author’s contemporary audience" (8). All historiography, ancient and modern, is shaped by the individual author’s cultural biases and their perceptions of the present needs of their prospective audience. The result of this is "the work of the historian reflects less on what actually happened and more on what the particular historian considered worth remembering and preserving". As such all historiography is biased, tendentious and incomplete. Raney contends that this neither makes such historiography unreliable nor inaccurate, but is a true account from the perspective of a particular people and place in time (10). Bias or ideology should not then be "used as a basis for excluding a given text from the category of history" (16).
Furthermore, when historians in different contexts write about the same time period and events, these "competing stories" each provide a true account of the period from the perspective of the culture which produced them. "The way a historian constructs his or her account reveals much about the questions and concerns with which the writer and his or her original audience were faced" (10). Because all historiography originates in a particular cultural context, Raney contends that "a close reading of the historian’s work may reveal significant insight into the writer’s own time (10–11). This insight Raney considers important to understand both the culture that produced the work in question as well as the statements and accounts contained within that work.
Raney therefore rejects both extreme approaches to reconstructing the history of Ancient Israel. He rejects the idea that either the Deuteronomistic or Chronicler’s historiography are objective historical documents. He recognizes that they are the product of a culture which sought to understand its present through the lessons of its past, and as such the claims of the historiographical text must be critically analysed not only for what they say, but also for why they say it.
Raney also rejects the minimalist approach of Davies, Lemche and Thompson (and that of Torrey a century ago) who reject out of hand the historical value of documents because of the biases of their respective authors. Instead, Raney contends that both texts contain historical "facts" which must be weighed on their individual merits and not dismissed out of hand because of a clear bias in some of its accounts. "One must question why David’s affair with Bathsheba, which is unique to the DH, is seen as more likely factual than Manasseh’s repentance, which is unique to Chronicles" (202).
Raney states that "it is clear that the authors fully intended them to be read as accurate records of the past" (21), even if the details contained therein cannot "be shown to be factual". He suggests therefore that both authors utilized a variety of sources, now lost, in compiling their works. Furthermore, although the Chronicler utilized the Deuteronomistic history, he did not limit his work to this source, but had other sources which he incorporated in part or in whole into his work. Raney therefore rejects the view that the Chronicler’s additional material is from the Chronicler’s imagination, and as a result is in some sense "unreliable".
Chapters 2 through 5 are an interpretive retelling of the reigns of the Davidic kings. Raney does not deal with every detail, but primarily with significant incidents within the context of the written histories. He first deals with the portrayal of the king in the Deuteronomistic History and then in the Chronicler’s. His primary goal is to investigate the theological significance for the incidents related in the two accounts rather than dealing with the "historical" issues which the incidents may raise. This is consistent with his premise that historiography is written by and for people in the present rather than simply as a quest for knowledge about the past. For both communities the incidents of the past, either positive or negative, are said to relate to the issues of life in their own time period.
Chapter 6 contains Raney’s conclusions to the method and theological purposes of the respective writers. The Deuteronomist lays the blame for the exile on all kings, beginning with Solomon. Although the exile was delayed "for the sake of David", exile was always inevitable because reliance on kingship itself was a diversion from reliance on Yahweh. Raney suggests that the Deuteronomist contends that the only hope of restoration is not through political means, "but through complete and exclusive devotion to and reliance upon YHWH" (192). The Chronicler however, writing from a later perspective, saw the problem not in terms of kingship, but of individual response to Yahweh. Just as judgement and retribution is because of personal action, so also restoration is the result of personal humbling and repentance. Both authors therefore hold that the people’s "cultic devotion to YHWH" is central to any hope of restoration to, or remaining in, the land.
It seems to me that one weakness in Raney’s work flows from his premise. He indicates that all histories are biased by the times in which they are written and can only be understood properly by understanding those times. He seeks regularly to do this in the case of Chronicles. In relation to the temple he says that the lack of detail of the temple’s architecture is not given by the Chronicler because it would "have been insignificant or even discouraging to a post-exilic community" (90). This may be so, but what he fails to discuss is what purpose the inclusion of this detail would serve in the Deuteronomist’s account when at the final redaction there was no temple at all. Even if one assumes a Josianic edition of the Deuteronomistic history at which time such material would have relevance, by the time of the final redaction of Kings the temple had been destroyed for a generation. Why was this material retained when there was no temple, and there was no prospect of there being another temple?
This is simply one example of the number of times that Raney presents more questions than answers. And some questions are very significant indeed. Raney’s search for meaning for the Chronicler’s readers and in the Chronicler’s context is not paralleled in his reading of the Deuteronomistic history. It results in his treating these works differently – the very thing he was trying to avoid. Ultimately, what comes over, perhaps, is that Raney believes the Chronicler to be ideologically and culturally driven while the Deuteronomist is straight "history for its own sake" (29). In reality, it is only as we read both in the light of their own period that we can understand the purpose and meaning of either.
The unanswered questions are a benefit of the work, however. Through his prompting of the reader to take seriously the historical context of the writer and the writer’s community, Raney forces us to ask questions of the text. Through his encouragement to understand the nature and purpose of historiography, Raney has encouraged moderns to place ourselves in the ancient context, to ask ancient questions, and to listen for the ancient answers.
THE DISCIPLES IN NARRATIVE PERSPECTIVE: THE PORTRAYAL
AND FUNCTION OF THE MATTHEAN DISCIPLES
Jeannine K. Brown
(Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002) xii, 171 pp. ISBN 1589830482
In this book, Brown takes as her focus the narrative analysis of Matt 16:21 – 20:28. As she points out in her review of literature, much previous work on the Matthean disciples, particularly that which uses the methodology of redactional criticism, has tended to focus on Matt 13–17 and to conclude that the Matthean disciples were characterised by their understanding of Jesus. The Matthean disciples were likewise viewed as transparent for the Matthean community.
In many of the pericopae of Matt 16:21 – 20:28, as Brown demonstrates, the disciples are actually characterised by the way that they misunderstood Jesus, not by their understanding of him. For example, Peter may recognise that Jesus is the Christ, but Matt 16:21–28 shows that "while Peter has come to know and confess Jesus to be Messiah, he certainly does not agree with Jesus as to what being Messiah is all about" (60). When Jesus speaks of his impending suffering in Matt 17:1–3, "there is no indication that as of yet they comprehend this" (64). Matt 18:1–20 "continues to show the disciples and Jesus to be involved in an ideological conflict" (73). Thus does Brown lay out her case that in Matt 16:21–20:28 the disciples fail to understand Jesus.
This is, in fact, consistent with how the disciples are shown elsewhere in Matthew. They fall short of Jesus’ intentions, and while believers, are still characterised by their small (inadequate) faith. Furthermore, the disciples make no apparent progress in their understanding throughout the Gospel, unlike the implied reader. In fact, the implied reader is well informed about the ideal of discipleship. The misunderstanding of the disciples gives opportunity for Jesus to give further teaching on a wide variety of topics, including Jesus’ conception of discipleship. Furthermore, the implied reader has the example of a number of the minor characters in the Gospel to illustrate various aspects of true discipleship, as well as the example of Jesus himself. So, as the Gospel progresses, so does the implied reader’s understanding of Jesus and how the evangelist would have the implied reader understand the ideal of discipleship.
In the narrative the disciples’ misunderstanding functions also as an opportunity to illustrate the patience that Jesus would have with any disciple that was slow to understand. According to Brown, one function they do not have, though, is to act as a transparency for the Matthean community. The Gospel of Matthew is after all, a communication to the Matthean audience. It is not a communication about the Matthean audience. "In other words, what Matthew offers is a portrait of discipleship rather than a window into the community behind the Gospel" (134).
This work has its origins in a PhD dissertation presented and accepted at Luther Seminary, and retains the features of a dissertation: a careful review of existing literature, a self-conscious methodology, frequent summaries, and suggestions for further research which can be found at the end of the concluding summary chapter. The end product, though a little repetitive on occasion, forms a clear exposition of Brown’s positions.
Interest in the topic of the disciples in Matthew is not new to Matthean scholarship, and in her review of literature Brown is able to point to two book-length treatments (Edwards 1997, Wilkens 1988) as well as an unpublished dissertation (Trotter 1986), several articles specifically on the topic, as well as many well-developed positions that can be found in works dealing with the whole of the Gospel of Matthew.
Yet Brown’s contribution is to be welcomed. She has advanced a convincing case that the disciples in Matthew are continuously characterised by their lack of understanding and limited faith – a viewpoint that will henceforth need to be given greater weight. The other insights that grow out of the careful narrative analysis are also valuable, particularly the fully rounded view of the Matthean concept of discipleship that she develops, not only from the characterisation of the 12, but also from the examples of the minor characters and of Jesus himself.
Not all Brown’s readers will find equally compelling her rejection of the possibility of using the Gospel of Matthew to discover more about the Matthean community. It must be conceded that Brown is correct in stressing that the book is not about the community, but written to or for the community/ies. She is also correct in warning of a too-hasty movement from the disciples as portrayed in Matthew to the Matthean community. Yet it is hard to imagine that the Gospel would have been written in such a general manner that nothing in it might be of relevance to the community to which it is addressed or out of which it arose. It is indeed difficult to develop a suitable methodology to discover this community, but while difficult, it need not be impossible. On the other hand, the disciples’ relationship to the wider Matthean community is but a small part of her work, and disagreement over what is said in this area should not diminish the substantial usefulness of the rest of the book.
Robert K. McIver
N. T. Wright
(Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003) 817pp. ISBN 0800626818
After devouring and re-reading N.T. Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God (1992) and Jesus and the Victory of God (1996) I found myself waiting anxiously for the next installment in Wright’s ambitious project Christian Origins and the Question of God volume 3: The Resurrection of the Son of God. My anticipation was inflamed all the more by reading an article by Wright that overtures his thoughts (N. T. Wright, "The Resurrection of the Messiah," Sewanee Theological Review 41 , 107–56). I gleamed from this that what lay in store would be a conception of "resurrection" thoroughly anchored in Judaism and a forthright attempt to comprehend the meaning of resurrection in early Christianity, both historically and theologically. With hopes high and expectation at maximum, I was not disappointed in the least. Wright has written what will arguably be the definitive study on the resurrection for years to come.
Having seen Wright’s thesis previewed in his Sewanee article, I set about deliberately to read previous monographs on the resurrection by Willi Marxsen, Peter Carnley and Gerd Lüdemann before the book was released. Like Barth writing in the aftermath of Schleiermacher, Harnack and Ritschl, so too Wright is most provocative and refreshing when read against the backdrop of these scholars.
In Part I Wright introduces the problem of speaking of the resurrection in a historical sense which is followed by a study of life-after-death in pagan writings, the Old Testament and Jewish literature. In essence Wright is searching for what Christians thought happened to Jesus and how plausible those beliefs are (6, 28). Wright challenges the reigning scholarly paradigm that: (1) The Jewish meaning of "resurrection" was ambivalent; (2) that Paul held to a resurrection of a spiritual body; (3) the earliest Christians did not believe in a literal resurrection but an exaltation/ascension/glorification of Jesus; (4) the resurrection narratives are late inventions to bolster faith; (5) reports of "seeing" the risen Christ are subjective religious experiences; (6) regardless of whatever happened to Jesus’ body, it was certainly not revived ( 7).
In its place Wright seeks to offer: (1) An alternative view of the Jewish context for "resurrection"; (2) a fresh understanding of Paul and (3) early Christianity regarding views of the resurrection; (4) a new reading of the gospel stories; (5) that "the only possible reason why Christianity began and took the shape that it did is that the tomb was really empty and that people really did meet Jesus, alive again"; (6) that this explanation is the best historical one available (8). In setting up this project Wright challenges the notion that there is no access to the resurrection (Marxsen), there is no analogy (Troeltsch), or there exists better evidence for a competing alternative (Crossan; Lüdemann) (15–20). Furthermore, he contends that there is no point starting with the Gospels and Paul since "resurrection" does not have meaning in a cultural or theological vacuum, rather one must begin by analyzing what resurrection meant when some Jews affirmed it and pagans denied it.
Wright is adamant that, despite a few exceptions (e.g. Protesilaus, Alcestis, Nero), Greeks basically denied resurrection (81–84). In particular, Wright attacks the recent argument of Stanley E. Porter who has suggested that "resurrection" was prefigured in some strands of Greek literature more so than some Jewish writings. As Wright shows this relies on very scant evidence. In contrast, the Hebrew Bible has various representations concerning the fate of the dead ranging from being practically non-existent to reawakening. Wright contends that when hope of resurrection did emerge, it could function either as a metaphor for the political renewal of Israel (e.g. Ezekiel 37), or else denote a physical re-creation. Even so, resurrection in passages such as Dan. 12.2 and Isa. 26.16 is intimately bound up with the restoration of Israel since it bespeaks of God creative power in vindicating the nation (121–28). The varied and confused accounts of post-mortem existence in Second-Temple literature are examined where Wright presents careful arguments for seeing resurrection espoused in the Septuagint (147–50), Wis. 3.1–10 (162–75), Josephus and Qumran (175–89).
Part II deals with Paul. There Wright notices that resurrection is supreme and central to the Pauline corpus. On Romans he writes, "Romans is suffused with resurrection. Squeeze this letter at any point, and resurrection spills out; hold it up to the light, and you can see Easter sparkling all the way through" (241). He argues that the only detectable change in Paul’s view of the resurrection from 1 Corinthians to 2 Corinthians is Paul’s reckoning with the possibility he might be dead before the second resurrection, rather than switching to a platonic dualism in 2 Corinthians 5 (272, 277). Wright claims that in 1 Corinthians 15 soma pneumatikos does not mean "spiritual body" but rather a body animated by the spirit (347–56). This is likely to provoke much discussion.
Resurrection in early Christianity apart from Paul is examined in Part III. Wright scans over the rest of the New Testament and also the Apostolic Fathers, Apologists, Gnostics, Christian Apocrypha and Church Fathers. He surmises about resurrection in the New Testament: (1) in distinction to Judaism, resurrection has moved from the periphery to the centre in Christianity; (2) Christianity appears as a sub-branch of pharisaic Judaism; (3) the Pharisaic view is modified since resurrection as an eschatological event has been split into two stages: resurrection of Messiah and resurrection of followers. The nature of resurrection is also clarified as it involves participation in a transphysical state. (4) The early Christians used some texts to express what Jesus’ resurrection meant and avoided others, e.g. Dan. 12.1–2; (5) Resurrection continued to function as a metaphor in early Christianity, but not as return-from-exile as it did in Judaism. Instead, it was related to dying and rising with Christ and had baptism, holiness and witness as its referent (477–78). In a subsequent section, Wright postulates that belief in resurrection is what best accounts for the early Christian belief that Jesus was the Messiah and the world’s true Lord (553–78).
After this vast, albeit scintillating prolegomena, Wright is prepared to tackle the Easter narratives in Part IV. The Gospel accounts of Easter pose an inevitable question, "Why did early Christianity not only get under way at all, but tell this kind of story, without antecedent or obvious parallel?" (597). Wright regards answers about combating docetism and creative exegesis of the OT unconvincing. After analysis of the shape of the narratives penned by each Evangelist, Wright avers that the Gospel authors wanted to convey a message about Easter that was both "historical as well as historic" (680).
Finally, in Part V, there is a discussion of belief, event and meaning. Wright attempts to refute alternative theories about the origin of belief in Jesus’ resurrection based upon either cognitive dissonance or was a way of speaking about a new experience of grace. What Wright offers is largely a version of the sine qua non argument for the resurrection, since he supposes that the resurrection of Jesus (accounting for the either tomb and the purported appearances) provides both the "sufficient" and "necessary" condition for such belief to arise. This leads him to the question of so what? There he wrestles with the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus, not simply in terms of proof of life-after-death, but of its profound cosmic, world-shattering and community-forming significance. Above all, resurrection entails that Jesus, "is the one in whom the living God, Israel’s God, has become personally present in the world, has become of the human creatures that were made from the beginning in the image of this God" (733). Furthermore, the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead generates a "world of meaning" that stands in continuity with the Jewish story of the world and evokes a range of corollaries about faith, idolatry and death ( 735).
There are several aspects of Wright’s previous works which I have found questionable, viz. that "exile" constitutes an all encompassing meta-narrative in Judaism and justification amounts to "covenant membership". Similarly in this work I found one or two minor dissatisfactions. His translation of Rom. 4.25b (my own exegetical hobby horse) as "he was raised because of [God’s plan] for our justification" is an over translation and unnecessary addition. I would have liked to see him engage more closely with Stanley Porter’s article on resurrection in Greek literature and perhaps some more in-depth details of the sources of the Easter narratives.
For a book that was originally going to be a chapter tacked onto JVG it is mammoth and formidable in length (738 pages of text with an extensive bibliography and indexes). However, Wright’s clear prose coupled with colourful analogies and admixed with a very British humour, make it a delight to read. It is a book, that once read, one should recline comfortably with a glass of cabernet sauvignon and muse over the phrase "Jesus is risen".
Readers might like to note that audio lectures by N. T. Wright on the resurrection are available at http://home.hiwaay.net/~kbush/wrightpage.html
R. Timothy McLay
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003) 207pp ISBN 0802860915
This slim, informative and initially almost chatty book is an excellent introduction to the issues of the use of the Septuagint in the New Testament. It begins with the valid observation, that introductions to the New Testament often give little attention to the Septuagint, although the latter was the Bible of its writers and often has distinctive forms which warrant special consideration and do not always cohere with the Hebrew text commonly used as the basis for translations of the Old Testament.
The first chapter begins helpfully with a concrete example, the citation of Amos 9:11-12 in Acts 15:16-18. This enables the author to explore both the issues raised by the differences between the OG (the term he uses for the Greek versions of an individual writing) and the MT (the Hebrew Masoretic text) and the issues raised, on the other hand, by differences between Acts and the OG, which Acts basically uses. Thus the wide range of possibilities and theories surfaces in the discussion: misreadings by OG of the Hebrew text, variant Hebrew texts, theological tendencies of the OG translator, on the one hand, and in relation to Acts: variants in the OG, misreadings or abbreviations, variants of the Acts text, as well as issues such as whether the author is citing from a written source, from memory, engaging in some particular form of hermeneutical procedure which results in changes, omissions and additions.
Chapter Two identifies some level of confusion in claims about what constitutes the source of citations of the Old Testament in the New. Some lists treat as LXX only those quotations which differ from the MT, but, as McLay rightly observes, it is likely that in many instances where LXX and MT do not differ, the former is the source, but this is not easy to determine. It then introduces a theoretical discussion about translation, beginning with the two poles of literal and dynamic equivalence translation. The main concern is to outline a way of analysing "translation technique" (TT). McLay argues that the focus on literal translation has some appropriateness to the LXX, because the translations are more or less literal. Such research identifies the elements of "stereotyping" (consistently using the same Greek word to translate a Hebrew term), "segmentation and quantitative representation" (breaking the Hebrew word into its component parts and reproducing them), and reproducing "word order". The focus on literalism wrongly assumes such literalism as the intention of translators, whereas it may also reflect ease of technique or instinctive renderings. More importantly it fails to address dynamic features of translation, the translator’s idiosyncrasies and social and linguistic context, which are the most distinguishing features of TT. McLay then notes five presuppositions about TT. It is descriptive, synchronic (dealing with a given speech community at a point in time), analyses structure and takes the source language as the point of departure. "The description of the TT of a unit of translation requires the comparison of the translation equivalents of the unit with the elements of the source text from which they were derived" (75).
The chapter, "Offering a model for TT", revisits the three areas entailed in the process of TT: the element of translation (source text with its morphology, lexicology and syntax), adjustment and motivation (target text with its morphology, lexicology and syntax and the issue of whether changes were intended or otherwise) and effect on meaning (comparison, identifying whether texts are synonymous or reflect alteration). Each aspect is well explained. Examples are offered and the discussion well informed by linguistics. I would have liked to have seen a little more on the effect on meaning, particularly as it is created in broader contexts of a translation, for instance, in the opening chapters of Genesis, where in my recent work I have argued that the translation creates an intratextual effect between Gen 1:26-28 and 2:18-24 which is not present in the Hebrew and opens new possibilities for the way the text was read in the matter of the relations of men and women (in The Septuagint, Sexuality and the New Testament: Case Studies on the Impact of the LXX in Philo and the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming).
Chapter 4 includes a brief outline of theories of the origin of the Septuagint, discussing the Aristeas legend and reaching the conclusion that the translation occurred probably for educational reasons in Egypt, but with a sense of subordination to the Hebrew text (hence the literalness), not a will to supplant it. The process also generated a series of attempts to revise the text, often to bring it more into line with the Hebrew text, but the result was a plethora of translations. McLay then illustrates this with regard to the diversity of texts reflected in the New Testament citations. The citation of Deuteronomy 32 in Heb 1:6 is a particularly fine example and discussed at some length, including the role of differing Hebrew texts, now in evidence among the Dead Sea Scrolls. This leads to a useful overview of the complexities surrounding the Hebrew text which appears to have existed in variant forms before the 2nd century CE, as evidenced in the range of texts among the Scrolls but also in the textual traditions which the Samaritan Pentateuch and the versions presuppose. This is complicated still further by the various forms of the Greek text.
McLay offers a lucid overview of current research concerning the Greek text, outlining what is seen as the contribution of Origen’s Hexapala, Aquila, Theodotian, Symmachus, and the so-called Hesychian recension and the Lucianic recension. The situation is far more complex than often supposed, for instance, with so-called Theodotian revisions in evidence much earlier than when the supposed Theodotian lived. McLay then offers a sequence of steps which he believes scholars should follow in analysing citations in the New Testament, which seeks to take seriously these complexities.
Chapter 5, "The Impact of the LXX on the NT", begins with a discussion of the state of the Hebrew canon in the New Testament period. It concludes that there remains considerable uncertainty as to its extent beyond "The Law". For the designation "The Prophets" is uncertain in meaning and extent. This applies even more to references to "Writings" beyond those two categories. The New Testament writers use a wide range of writings, including 1 Enoch. McLay then argues that the use of the Greek Jewish Scriptures by New Testament writers made a significant difference which can be traced in vocabulary, citations and theology.
Earlier he offers the observation that a change in methodology to recognise the primacy of the Septuagint as the source for New Testament writers "will introduce some earth-shattering consequences into New Testament research" (138). This is surely exaggeration and denies the long tradition of taking Septuagintal language into account, from Dodd’s famous work, The Bible and the Greeks (not listed) to Kittel’s Dictionary, for all its limitations, and beyond. Nevertheless the importance deserves reiteration and the caution against oversimplification in citing "the LXX" is well taken. The chapter offers further illustration of impact through citations: 1 Cor 2:16; Matt 22:37; Heb 12:26; Matt 24:30. In the latter McLay notes the variant Septuagint reading which has the Son of Man coming as the Ancient of Days, apparently assumed in Rev 1:7,13-14, and its potential for offering new insights into the divine connotations of the designation, "son of man" (158). He offers a further illustration of use of the LXX through his interpretation of three Matthean texts which he argues presuppose a descent of Jesus to Hades (12:40; 16:18; 27:51b-53) and seems influenced by us of the Old Greek text of Jonah.
The book concludes with a reassertion of the importance of the LXX for understanding the New Testament in an age when "the DSS seem to have cast a spell on our attention" (173). I missed from the bibliography Martin Hengel’s major essay, "Die Septuaginta als ‘christliche Schriftsammlung’, ihre Vorgeschichte und da Problem ihres Kanons" in Die Septuaginta zwischen Judentum und Christentum (WUNT 72; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994) 182-284. Readers should also consult the major work by Folker Siegert, Zwischen Hebräischer Bibel und Altem Testament: Eine Einführung in die Septuaginta (Münster: Lit, 2001).
Apart from the occasional intemperate comment, McLay’s presentation is rich and well argued. I think it comes too short in demonstrating the implications of its argument. More could have been said particularly about the influence of the theology of Septuagint texts (intended or otherwise latent in the effect of the translations) on New Testament writers. This is likely to take us beyond what has often been the preoccupation of trying to determine which texts are cited or exploring citations as just another instrument in ultimately establishing the Hebrew text. Citations are one element. Influence extends far beyond excerpts and vocabulary. McLay’s work sets us on the journey and provides an excellent introduction for anyone wanting a brief, yet comprehensive overview of the issues.
AN EVANGELICAL ASSESSMENT
Anthony N. S. Lane
(London: T & T Clark/Continuum, 2002) 272pp. ISBN 0567088227
While sixteenth-century Europe continues to inspire studies notable for their detail, richness, diversity, and challenges to long-held notions, there is still a general consensus that the doctrine at the heart of the Reformation was "justification by faith". Ecumenical dialogue of the second half of the nineteenth century witnessed numerous instances where former theological combatants addressed this issue in its historical context and for its contemporary significance.
In Justification by faith in Catholic-Protestant dialogue Tony Lane has provided an overview of, and commentary on, the more significant developments in Catholic-Protestant dialogue on justification during the past fifty years or so. Specifically, he deals with eight documents spanning the period 1957 to 1999, all but the first located in the 1980s and 1990s. Four of these emanate from Catholic-Lutheran dialogues, while the other viewpoints emerging from Lane’s selection are Anglican, Methodist, Evangelical, and that of an individual Roman Catholic. Curiously, although John Calvin is chosen to represent "traditional Protestant doctrine" (Chapter One) he has no modern representatives in the dialogues apart from the brief response by Barth which Küng printed in his Justification (less than four pages)! The Catholic doctrine is represented by the Council of Trent (Chapter Two).
Following his introduction, description, and evaluation of the eight documents (Chapter Three) Lane discusses fifteen "key issues" (Chapter Four). A Conclusion of nine pages follows. The two appendices contain Article 5 of the Regensburg Agreement of 1541 (Appendix I) and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification of 1999 (Appendix II).
As the subtitle suggests, the assessment Lane sets out to provide is an Evangelical one. His personal perspective is Reformed (3).
Reference has already been made to the anomaly of choosing John Calvin as the representative of Protestantism in a book treating Catholic-Protestant dialogue in which (apart from Barth’s brief letter) Calvin’s direct heirs are not represented in any of the eight dialogues considered. On this point it is disappointing to find that Lane’s work suffers from an ethos all too common in British scholarship. It is an ethos lacking historical-critical credibility, by which Lutheran scholarship is made secondary to Reformed scholarship. The forensic view of justification first articulated clearly by Melanchthon ca. 1531, which was ultimately adopted as the standard Protestant view, was already in place several years before the young Calvin even came to an unequivocal commitment to Reformation views. Since Calvin could not have derived his forensic view of justification from Paul, it is highly probable that he derived it ultimately from Melanchthon, whose Latin writings were available to the Genevan Reformer.
Lane’s choice of Trent as representative of the "traditional" Catholic view (Chapter Two) is at first sight an obvious choice. Yet Lane later acknowledges the ambiguous role that Trent occupies in what he regards as of prime importance: "what Rome teaches today" (216; see his treatment of the Magisterium, 216–21). This is precisely the difficulty one finds in Küng’s work on justification. Little wonder that Barth, even after mustering all his ecumenical grace, was so scathing of Trent! For dialogue to be meaningful, there is an urgent need, after appropriate decoding has been done, to be able to call apples "apples" and oranges "oranges". The attitude towards authority on the Catholic side makes this difficult, and has to do with the role accorded tradition and of course the notion that historical documents like Trent are irrevocable.
Chapter Three treats each of the eight "documents": Hans Küng’s book of more than 300 pages on Justification (1957); the US Lutheran-Catholic dialogue Justification by Faith (1983); the German language dialogue published in English as The condemnations of the Reformation era (1986); the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue known as ARCIC II (1987); the English Roman Catholic-Methodist Committee (1988-1992); the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Joint Commission (1994); the US-based discussions between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics (1997); and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1999). Though somewhat "mixed" in character, these are a helpful choice and certainly include the major dialogues of the period concerned.
Under the heading "The Key Issues" Chapter Four takes up 15 issues arising from the eight dialogues. Here one finds a great deal of very helpful, and often detailed, discussion of the 15 issues identified. Yet it is arguable that in terms of Catholic-Protestant dialogue Lane has failed to identify the key issue, namely, that in expounding his doctrine of "justification" (as understood in the Protestant sense) the apostle Paul employs precisely the same Greek word-family (with the stem dikai-) as he does when expounding the doctrine Protestants refer to as "sanctification" (e.g., Romans 6). This surely is the chief cause of misunderstanding between the respective views of Catholics and Protestants.
And at times the author’s own preferences are too closely identified with the Evangelical viewpoint. For example, very large numbers of Evangelicals are not of paedo-baptist persuasion at all, and would take a quite different stance on the section dealing with baptism.
In his concluding chapter Lane endeavours to draw together the overall results of the dialogues he has surveyed. While noting genuine progress at a number of points, he also draws attention to areas of ongoing concern. One such area is the role justification has in a given theological system. However, it is as much a concern within the two major branches of Protestantism, the Lutheran and the Reformed, as it is between Lutherans and Catholics. In this it simply reflects the different estimate Luther and Melanchthon placed on justification compared with Calvin. At the risk of stating the obvious, it ought to be the apostle and other New Testament writers who determine the role of justification for those who claim to stand in the biblical tradition.
It will be clear that the strength of Lane’s work lies in its description of the dialogue documents, including his analysis of them. One is bound to ask, however, whether pure description is enough in a work of historical theology. Can history which is purely descriptive be regarded as history? Is no evaluation involved? Here I find myself concurring with the wish expressed by the reader of an earlier draft of the work for "greater interaction with the biblical materials" to whom Lane refers (15). This work does, after all, purport to be an Evangelical assessment of the dialogues. Is the relationship of the theology of the dialogues to the theology of Paul of no interest to an Evangelical?
On this point there is a serious flaw in the work. While it eschews engagement with the biblical materials, it is underpinned by the tacit assumption (evident at many points) that Evangelicals and—more seriously—the apostle Paul, held a forensic view of justification in which the alien righteousness of Christ is imputed or reckoned to the believer. Whatever some Evangelicals may hold, the apostle certainly held no such view. Nowhere does he even refer to the righteousness of Christ in his exposition of justification! Nor does he hold a wooden, untenable, view of the imputation of righteousness, whether of Christ or of anyone else. What he does speak of is faith being imputed as righteousness (as in the case of Abraham). And when he does speak of God in a forensic context as Judge, the context is works, works, works (Romans 2); faith does not even receive a mention. On the other hand Paul has a lot to say in justification contexts about God’s grace and about God as a giver, suggesting a paradigm quite different from that developed by the Reformers. The Reformation catch cry of sola scriptura begs to be worked out in its fullness in conditions very different from the (life-threatening) controversies of the sixteenth century!
For these reasons any interested in the doctrine of justification (and not least, those who identify as Evangelicals) cannot limit their interest only to historical responses to the Pauline material, but must evaluate them by the apostle’s own statements and intentions.
In conclusion, Lane’s work provides a very useful treatment of a vital area in theological and ecumenical enterprise: the dialogues on justification over the last few decades. The strength of his work lies in description. Those, including Evangelicals, who want to come to grips with the doctrine of justification as a doctrine of the New Testament will need to look further. But in this substantial volume there is a great deal of useful information and analysis concerning ecumenical dialogue on the doctrine which divided the sixteenth century Reformers and their Catholic opponents. The appendices are an added bonus: Regensburg on justification is otherwise not readily available, and the Joint Declaration is the most significant statement to date, the culmination of the work of the heirs of the original two disputants, with endorsement by each at the highest level. The bibliography is already very valuable in its own right; its value is further enhanced by Lane’s helpful annotations.
Richard K. Moore
(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark / Continuum, 2002) 262 pp. 0567088502
In this brilliant work Christiaan Mostert provides us with a lucid and engaging account of the theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg under the controlling concept of Pannenberg’s own doctrine of the eschatological nature of God. Mostert rightly regards his subject as a theologian of great stature. He writes that "he has made, by any standards, a very important contribution to the discussion of Trinitarian theology" and understandably claims that Pannenberg "will be recognized as one of the great teachers and defenders of the Christian faith in the twentieth century" (238).
Pannenberg is a great theologian, working innovatively and with remarkable penetration and internal consistency in a variety of areas. As Mostert comments, his recently published three volume Systematic Theology (1988–93) enhanced his reputation and shows him to be "the consummate Systematiker, an original thinker, a theologian’s theologian" (1).
For Pannenberg, theology is essentially a doctrine of God. It is fundamentally about God and everything in relation to God. Because, for Pannenberg, theology takes its shape from eschatology his doctrine of God is naturally eschatological.
The book has six closely argued chapters. The first is a critical introduction to eschatology from Weiss to Moltmann in the 20th century which concludes with a brief description of six important factors in Pannenberg’s eschatology: (1) the restoration of eschatology is demanded by a proper understanding of the Christian faith; (2) the doctrines of reconciliation and salvation call for eschatological understanding; (3) nothing else is adequate to the universality of God (ie. his relation to the totality of history – not just "a salvation stream"); (4) humanity seen in the context of ultimate reality is necessarily eschatological; (5) the desire to articulate persuasively the doctrine of God, consistent with Jesus’ proclamation of the coming kingdom; and (6) the necessity for a critical and constructive eschatology in the public realm. "Eschatology provides a challenge to the self-sufficiency of an entirely secular view of the world" (24).
The second chapter deals with the appeal of the apocalyptic in Pannenberg’s theology. Mostert points out that his theology is determined by the resurrection of Jesus. Similarly, "Only the last event will finally and fully disclose the power and glory of God" (30). There follows a fascinating section on the emerging idea of apocalyptic – engaging with Paul Hanson, John Collins, Chris Rowland, and others. Then the author considers the Kingdom of God concept within the inter-connectedness (in Pannenberg’s thought) of Jesus, the giving of future salvation, and the Fatherhood of the God.
Clearly, resurrection has an enormously significant role for Pannenberg. As is commonly recognized, he defends the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus as central because it establishes the unity of God and Jesus. The resurrection also justified "Jesus’ expectation of the near End" (quoted, p. 45). Jesus’ resurrection meant the beginning of the end of the age. Mostert’s ability to clarify Pannenberg’s position in a sentence or two is seen in the following quotation: "He is as emphatic about the proleptic character of the resurrection as about its historical facticity. For the resurrection is at once an event in history and the eschatological salvation-event, a past event and one that remains before us as our ultimate future" (51).
In chapter 3 Mostert discusses Pannenberg’s use of philosophy. Though he is an outstanding theological thinker, he reflects philosophically throughout his work. Philosophy primarily has a critical function, though it remains a close partner of theology. But, ultimately, Pannenberg’s thinking demands that we examine the ontology of all things from the perspective of eschatology. "Pannenberg’s ontology is indeed an eschatological ontology, in which the future has ontological priority" (56).
Mostert then discusses perhaps Pannenberg’s most difficult concept – that of temporality. Given that the essential nature of things will appear conclusively at the end of the historical process, human existence is not above time, it is historical – and this implies openness to the future. "It is not a case of a present reality extending into a not yet existing future. Pannenberg sees it as the presence of the future … in the present" (76). Speaking of Pannenberg’s "ontology of final coherence" (78), Mostert shows that we await meaning and understanding.
Chapter 4 deals with what Mostert claims to be Pannenberg’s most innovative aspect of theology – the ontological priority of the future and its relation to the present. In this well-written, but complex chapter the author examines the central concept of "anticipation". "Anticipation is ‘a real instance of something’s occurring in advance’" (119-20). The present is anticipation of the future. "If Christianity cannot do without eschatology, the present experience of salvation has to be connected with it" (113) and it is connected by anticipation – the already/ not yet. "What happens in the present already has the character of future reality. … Such a view presupposes the reality of the future – indeed its primacy over the present and the past – even though it does not yet exist" (116)
In this the future, experienced as power, is determinative. Though Pannenberg discovers a consistency here, it is not the consistency of humanity or of historical events. The consistency is found in the faithfulness, love and creative activity of God. This gives us our freedom – because God is free, so are we in the freedom of the eschatological God.
This has the interesting corollary: what is real is not restricted to what is present. Both the past and the future are real because they are effective in the present. "God is the power of the future. Only in the future, and by the all-determining power that is God, does the cosmos receive its unity and coherence" (103) Mostert shows that the impetus for such an ontology is the biblical idea of the Kingdom of God. In that Pannenberg understands the present as the presence of eternity. "The present has its place in the eternity of God and finds its meaning therein. Eternity is the presence of life in its totality; the whole is already present in the part" (107).
The chapter concludes by outlining five areas of criticism made against Pannenberg’s thinking. Generally, Mostert defends Pannenberg’s positions, but he does so with a refreshing, critical realism.
Chapter 5 is directly concerned with the nature of Pannenberg’s God. Preeminently he is God of the future. The future is God’s mode of being. Pannenberg’s is a very dynamic and powerful conception of God. "God does not exist as something that is at hand in the present" (134). "God is the future that is powerful in every present" (135). This means that God is not bound by the present, of course. Its corollary is that people are not bound by the present or by the past, either. This is Pannenberg’s notion of human freedom. "Freedom is the capacity to transcend the present" (136).
Christians anticipate the eschatological future by experience of unity with God, with others and the rest of creation. We live the life of the future now, this is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Mostert discusses the complex question of determinism, but concludes a genuine openness of God and the future in Pannenberg’s thought. Ultimately, God’s determination is one of love (180).
The final chapter on the reign of God turns to the trinity and its relation to history. Again, this is complex thought, but ably tackled by the author. He begins from the historical relation of Jesus with his Father, showing that the starting point is in history – in the sending of the Son and the Spirit in salvation. "The sole rule (monarchia) of God is the rule or lordship of the Father in the economy of salvation by means of the Son and the Spirit" (211). This chapter engages with a diversity of scholars: Barth, Hengel, Jungel, Moltmann and Robert Jenson.
The issue as Mostert outlines it is the essence of God in relation to the world. Pannenberg’s foundational idea is that God is eternal by definition. Therefore, what God’s being is at any particular time is God’s essence all the time. As eternal, God is present all the time and at each time.
This is a scholarly work of some distinction. It is an engaging book, it has clarity on some very complex issues – for example, the question of time, of the Kingdom of God, of God’s essence, and so on. The book’s style is lucid. The arguments demonstrate a tremendous familiarity with the broad sweep of Pannenberg’s works. It is questioning, written within a cognizance of a much broader theological framework. It is generally, but not exclusively, defensive of the subject. Mostert claims that he cannot do justice to the subject. A short review certainly cannot do justice to Mostert’s exceptional book. It is an excellent study of Pannenberg and an example of theological scholarship at its best.
James G. Clarke (ed.)
Studies in the History of Medieval Religion 18
(The Boydell Press, Woodbridge 2002), xii, 250pp. ISBN 0851159001
This book is a result of a Colloquium on the subject of the religious orders in later medieval and pre-Reformation England, held at the University of York in September 1999. Its intent is to provide an overview of religious life in England in the two centuries after 1350. The location of the original colloquium has influenced the focus of the papers assembled here, with an emphasis on the North of England, though this is not to the exclusion of other considerations.
Such expressions of scholarship stand within the legacy established by Dom David Knowles in his monumental The Religious Orders in England (Cambridge, 3 vols, 1948-1959). His third volume deals with The Tudor Age, the centre of attention of the present collection, and Medieval Religious Houses. England and Wales (London, 1953), written in collaboration with R. Neville Hadcock. It is also worthy to stand alongside other significant works on the history of monasticism (e.g. C. H. Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism. Forms of religious life in Western Europe in the Middle Ages (London, 1984) and Jane Burton, Monastic and Religious Orders in Britain 1000-1300 (Cambridge, 1994).
The first contribution, "After Knowles: Recent Perspectives in Monastic History", by Joan Greatrex (35–47), makes some observations about studies of monastic history since Knowles. She notes the commitment of ordinary men and women to religious life during the period and concludes that the Dissolution of the English monasteries was not inevitable.
Attention then concentrates upon Barbara Harvey’s examination of "A Novice’s Life at Westminster Abbey in the Century before the Dissolution" (51–73). She notices the kind of intellectual formation received by the monks, the library available to them, as well as the impetus from the time of Henry VII for them to attend university.
Vincent Gillespie, in "Syon and the New Learning" (75–95), looks at how the principles of the new Renaissance learning found expression in an enclosed monastic community. In particular, he notes the roles played by Thomas Betson and Thomas Raille in establishing the monastic library from the 1480s, at a time when the collection was changing from manuscript to print. His fascinatng insight is accompanied by a word of caution: lest what was a random series of acquisitions be thought to have been the result of deliberate policy.
The next three papers – Jeremy Catto, "Franciscan Learning in England, 1450-1540" (97–104), Michael Robson, "The Grey Friars in York, c.1450-1530" (109–119), R. N Swanson, "Mendicants and Confraternity in Late Medieval England" (121–141) – treat various features of the activity of the Mendicant Orders. Their emphasis is largely upon the work of the Franciscans. It is regrettable that similar attention has not been given to groups such as the Dominicans and Carmelites, for then the similarities between, and the distinctiveness of, the ministries of different Orders would have been available for study and comparison.
One feature of the Mendicants’ activity is the way in which they popularised theology among the ordinary townsfolk. This was achieved in a variety of ways, which included preaching campaigns, hearing confessions, and associating in "spiritual confraternity". Spiritual confraternity is an area which requires further attention. On the one hand, it relates to the wider question of Indulgences as an element of lay piety, so reprehensible in the mind of Reformers like Luther. But, on a wider scale, Swanson, observes that it is "probably no accident that the first example of English printing is actually an indulgence letter" (136). Further, given the significance of spiritual confraternities in Roman Catholic circles during the Reformation period, a broad examination of such confraternities in pre-Reformation England would help place the movement in context.
The place of women religious is another area requiring further study. Joan Greatrex (45) observes that Knowles provided less than fifteen pages on women religious. It is some time since Eileen Power addressed the topic in her 1922 work Medieval English Nunneries. The contributions of Claire Cross, "Yorkshire Nunneries in the Early Tudor Period" (145–54) and of Marilyn Oliva, "Patterns of Patronage to Female Monasteries in the Late Middle Ages" (155–62) provide some light on the subject. Social perceptions of women religious are outlined (e.g. 145, 160), as is the poverty of the nuns’ lifestyle (e.g. 146, 157) and their level of intellectual formation (151). Their place in contemporary education is alluded to (151); as is the significance of lay people seeking burial in convent churches (159). Both need further study.
In Reformation polemics, much is made of cases of sexual immorality amongst women religious in the late 15th and early 16th centuries (149–50). Cross’ paper places such charges in their true context. This is valuable, for, as she relates on p. 146, one-eighth of women religious in England at the time of the Dissolution came from Yorkshire. She observes that the majority of nuns continued to observe their vows even after the Dissolution. Some even managed to remain in contact with former members of their religious communities. In a time of such radical change, such behaviour is certainly outstanding (152–54).
It has already been noted above that the Dissolution of the English monasteries was by no means inevitable. At the same time, some of the features of the post-Dissolution period have their origins in the monasticism of the Later Middle Ages. Benjamin Thompson, "Monasteries, Society and Reform in Late Medieval England" (165–95) examines the reforms that took place at the time in an attempt to understand how, when the Dissolution finally came, it could be accomplished in the short space of some four years. He highlights the demise of many of the families who had originally founded monasteries and the gradual passage of many to royal control (174–75). In many cases a blurring of distinctions between monastic establishments and those of the secular clergy – such as parish churches and chantries – occurred (181, 186–89). In addition, the increasing frequency of laity living within monasteries and running the monastic economy is noted (186).
Glyn Coppack, "The Planning of Cistercian Monasteries in the Later Middle Ages, the Evidence from Fountains, Rievaulx, Sawley and Rushen" (197–209), by examining two large and two small monasteries, provides support for Thompson’s thesis. He notes the alterations to both monastic churches and to abbots’ households as evidence of late medieval monastic reform and change (e.g. 200, 202, 204, 206).
Finally, two contributions address aspects of the Dissolution itself. The first, that of F. Donald Logan, "Departure from the Religious Life During the Royal Visitation of the Monasteries, 1535-1536" (213–26) addresses the question of those who sought an exeat from the Royal Commissioners in the North of England. He demonstrates that in the 122 ecclesiastical establishments visited by the Commissioners only 25 contained individuals who wanted to leave. In 7 of these cases only one person wanted to go (218). The number of persons so involved was 67 out of an estimated 1441 monks, or 4.6% (220). Lists of these are provided (223–26).
Peter Cunich, "The Ex-Religious in Post-Dissolution Society: Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?" (227–38), provides a challenging article with which to conclude the collection. Having observed that David Knowles displayed "an extraordinary lack of insight" in his treatment of the fate of ex-religious after the Dissolution (229), he asks whether they may be treated as examples of sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The piece is interesting, particularly as he reminds the reader of two caveats: 1) There is a paucity of evidence, and 2) The 16th century is not the 21st century; it did not have our psychological insights.
I recommend this book. It helps shed light on one of the greatest social changes that occurred in England during the 16th century. But, by the same token, it reminds us how much more work needs to be done before one can even begin to understand the origins of the modern world in which we live.
(New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003) 176pp ISBN: 0881412511
Boris Bobrinskoy is both a theologian and a priest in the (Russian) Eastern Orthodox tradition; he is both Dean of St Sergius Orthodox Institute, where he teaches Dogmatics, and Rector of Most Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Paris. His dual vocation is reflected in this volume of collected essays, which loosely cluster around the themes of Trinitarian theology, spirituality and liturgy. It is good to see that Orthodox theology is gaining a greater hearing amongst both Catholics and Protestants, as evidenced by the impact of scholars like John Zizioulas. This book continues the trend.
The Introduction by Maxime Egger which presents an account of the life and thought of Bobrinskoy is both lengthy, comprising 39 of the total of 172 pages, and somewhat hagiographic. While it is, in my view, unnecessarily long and fulsome, it nonetheless notes a number of important aspects of his work, especially relating to Trinitarian theology, Eastern Orthodox liturgy and ecumenism.
The nine essays by Bobrinskoy are arranged in three parts: "Facing Evil and Suffering", "The Liturgy of the Heart" and "Toward the Knowledge of God". The first, which I found to be the most interesting and valuable essay in the collection, is a narrative portrayal of the redemptive suffering of God occasioned by human sin, which finds its culmination and fullest expression in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus. A number of points struck me in this essay, all related to characteristic emphases of Orthodox theology. Bobrinskoy speaks of salvation as theosis and of redemption as an act of divine kenosis. Related to this is his presentation of the atonement in terms of ransom or victory – "Hades devours the Master of life but is unable to contain Him, for nothing in Jesus belongs to hell by right" (62) – and as involving the representative but not substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus. The liturgical emphasis of Orthodoxy is reflected in his claim that the Eucharist makes us contemporary with the passion of Jesus, rather than vice versa, an intriguing idea that has parallels with post-liberal theology. This experience of the redemptive suffering of God calls us, as the continuation of the incarnation, to express the compassion of God in the face of human suffering.
I must say that the second essay on love for enemies, in stark contrast to the first, is short, and fragmentary. There is an apparent typographical error on page 70, which refers to Ps 136:8–9, instead of Ps 137:8–9, even though it is cited as Psalm 137 two pages earlier. I suspect that this is the result of the different numbering of the Psalms in the Hebrew and Septuagint versions of the Psalter, the latter forming the basis of Orthodox canons. The third essay is better, presenting some interesting notions of forgiveness both divine and human. It does, however, unfortunately perpetuate the unhelpful idea to forgive is to forget, something that squares poorly with both divine and human forgiveness in my view.
Part Two, "The Liturgy of the Heart" (Chapters 4, 5 and 6), seems to be directed at an Orthodox piety of a particular mystical kind and was somewhat repetitious. I read it largely as an onlooker on another’s conversation. It seemed to me that he tends to read the tradition into the biblical text, such as in his discussions of "the heart" (101–103), and of Mary as the mother of prayer (103), as well as his claim that "Jesus is prayer" (103). Even so, I thought he made some good points, including his call to "internalise" the liturgical and iconic practices of Orthodox faith, and his claims that the only true naming of God is a naming in prayer, that the prayer of Jesus leads us to prayer to Jesus, and that the Kyrie eleison is not just the heart, but the full reality of prayer.
Part Three was of greater interest. In the opening essay in this section Bobrinskoy makes some good observations about the work of theology and its connection with spirituality. He is surely right to emphasize the need for prayer in the work of theology, that is, speaking to God in the second person, as "you", not just speaking about God in third person language, emphases found in such greats as Gregory of Nazianzus and Karl Barth. So too, it is important for us to remember that theology is an ecclesial practice (again, reminiscent of Barth), and that the theological fellowship of the Church extends through time, anchoring us to what Packer and others call "The Great Tradition".
In the second essay in this section (Chapter 8 in the volume) Bobrinskoy notes the importance of a theology of language in the flow of the biblical narrative, and helpfully notes the threefold nature of God-language: it is the Word of God which he speaks; a word to God which we speak in prayer, and so on; and a word about God which we articulate in theology. I found it helpful that he affirms that the Word and the Spirit are always connected, both in the Incarnation and in the production of Scripture and our reception of it. He briefly articulates the value of apophatic theology and draws a necessary connection between negative theology, which recognizes that God’s "superessence", hyperousia, is always beyond words and concepts, and positive theology, which affirms that the unknowable God has been made known in the incarnation of the Son and so now can be articulated in part and faithfully proclaimed.
The final chapter is an essay on tradition. He is right to affirm that tradition is crucial to all Christian groups, including my own Baptist tradition with its vehement embrace of sola scriptura and its tradition (sic!) of suspicion of authoritative tradition that binds the conscience of believer and congregation. Indeed, I would argue that an ignorance of tradition and a certain primitivist arrogance are amongst the greatest weaknesses of radical evangelical Protestantism. In that respect I found his discussion of tradition of some value. But, once again, I was listening in to an alien conversation. I found, as I suspect most non-Eastern Orthodox readers would, that the discussion of tradition, like that of liturgy of the heart and so on earlier in the volume, dealt with controversies and sensitivities alien to my Christian thought and practice.
I must say, in closing, that apart from my concerns about his rejection of substitutionary atonement, his tendency to read the tradition back into the biblical texts and his idea of the Church as a continuation of the Incarnation, a number of other features of the book struck me as unsatisfactory. The most obvious is that the book demonstrates all the shortcomings of a collection of essays, including a lack of unity and uneven quality. It also fails to interact with recent biblical, theological and ethical scholarship. On the other hand, it does engage with the fathers in a way that most western theology fails to do. I suspect that this is both typical of and a consequence of a certain scholarly isolation in the Orthodox and ecumenical Catholic communities. Nonetheless, this was an interesting book, even where it dealt with matters foreign to my theological tradition. For those who are part of the Orthodox tradition, I think this book will further an important theological conversation; for those, like me, who are not, it provides a useful insight into another, vibrant, theological and spiritual tradition.
(Oxford: Blackwell, 2002) 269pp ISBN 0631232753
For over 50 years now the secularisation thesis has been the dominant way we have come to view religion and its future. This accepted wisdom holds that religion will wither and die on the western vine. This thesis still pervades the Academy and has turned not a few theologians themselves into prophets of doom. But, that view, first challenged by David Martin of the London School of Economics in the 1960s and Andrew Greeley a few years later, has steadily lost ground among sociologists of religion. Steve Bruce in this book carefully lays out an argument seeking to restore faith in the secularisation thesis. In 12 chapters he provides a more nuanced version of this thesis attempting to jettison its more black and white versions, to re-establish its corollaries, exclude what it is not and reaffirm its warrants.
The secularisation thesis in his view is a set of associated explanations rather than a single theory. It does not assume there to be a linear progression to atheism only that "long-term decline in the power, popularity and prestige of religious beliefs and rituals" is inevitable (44). Assuming at least that "our ancestors were patently more religious than we are" Bruce presents now well known statistics of declining church memberships and church attendance in Britain to affirm his view of the decline of religion in British society.
There are well known corollaries to this thesis which Bruce is careful to attend to and restate in order to rescue the secularisation thesis in a more qualified form: these include (i) that religion in general, and Christianity in particular "has been fatally undermined by science". His view is that "the primary secularising effects of science came not from its direct reformation of religious ideas but through the general encouragement to a rationalistic orientation to the world that science has given" (117); (ii) that despite the popularity of eastern religions Britons are not turning to these religions in significant numbers to restore to religion its public status. (Whether in a liberal democracy churches would want that or think it achievable or desirable is left unexamined); (iii) that the ethos of modern (or post-modern) societies which encourage "individual autonomy, social and cultural diversity and practical relativism" is hostile rather than encouraging of belief-systems or the preservation of "social organisation that can act as a bulwark against secularisation" (150), and (iv) that the USA and the rest of the world will eventually go the way of Europe. While conceding that "organised religion remains much more vigorous in the USA than in other industrialised democracy (sic) of the ‘First World’", Bruce in spite of his attempts not to be a linear "progressivist", discerns that "privatisation, individualism and relativism are now affecting the US churches in the way they did the British churches in the middle of the twentieth century" (227), the assumption being that the end if it is not sight is at least around the corner.
The fact that this book needed to be written and has been noticed in spite of its thesis being the dominant explanation of the status of religion in the academy and the imagination of the intellectual and media elites of western democracies indicates that the opinion against it has gained ground. The fact that it has needed Bruce’s restatement of its corollaries indicates that several of its previous assumptions are in serious question. This book in fact is part of the reawakened interest in religion and its role in liberal societies. Time Magazine with an eye for what is newsworthy carried a cover story in June 2003 on the state of religion in Europe, a year after Bruce’s work. It paints a rather different picture to Bruce’s. The issue of the relevance of religion remains in the news as its resilience against all predictions continues.
I re-read Rodney Stark’s chapter in Acts of Faith (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002) entitled "Secularization: RIP" after reading Bruce’s book and found that I could not discount Stark’s view as easily as Bruce does. For example, his citation of James Leuba’s survey in 1914 that set out to show that scientists were less religious which in fact showed the contrary. That survey replicated in 1997 showed that almost a century of radical intellective change a random sample of scientists surveyed in exactly the same way indicated little change in belief in God among them (Acts of Faith 1972, 7). Stark cites Peter Berger, one of the most articulate proponents of the secularisation thesis in the 1960s, who interviewed in 1997, said: "I think what I and most sociologists of religion wrote in the 1960s about secularisation was a mistake. Our underlying argument was that secularisation and modernisation go hand in hand. With more modernisation comes more secularisation. It wasn’t a crazy idea. There was some evidence for it. But I think it’s basically wrong. Most of the world today is certainly not secular. It is very religious."
Grace Davies’ work "Europe: the Exceptional Case" (2002) and her earlier "Believing without Belonging" (1994) are instructive given Bruce’s views regarding the US going the way of Europe and the interpretation he gives to declining church membership and attendance. In the former work, she argues that rather than perceiving the USA as exceptional and that all the world with increased industrialisation and modernisation invariably resembling Europe, it is Europe that is exceptional. (Robert Wuthnow of Princeton in his well-received studies of religion in the USA confirms Grace Davie’s view rather than Bruce’s.) In the latter work she maintains that the declining attendance explains how the scope and nature of belonging to groups and institutions has changed rather than how religious faith has been eroded.
In recent research on New Zealand society, considered one of the most secularised countries in the world, Kevin Ward (thesis submitted at Otago University 2003), similar changed patterns of belonging are discernable while almost 60% of the population still claiming to be Christian. He found, for example, that there are fewer rugby clubs and growingly fewer people playing rugby but that few in New Zealand would claim that rugby there was dying. Other voluntary clubs and societies show similar decline in attendance and membership.
David Martin at a recent conference at Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand, which considered precisely this question about the "Future of Religion in the West", turned the "hermeneutics of suspicion" on this implicitly assumed, taken for granted view, that Bruce lays out in this book. While acknowledging that it is "not straight forwardly untrue", he pointed out that the secularisation thesis "includes a prescriptive as well as a descriptive element" and that the "frames which govern our understanding of secularisation are (also) the frames which govern our understanding of religion" and reflect "contemporary world-views, including concepts of human nature". He argued, using an analysis of Evangelicalism, for the "paradox of simultaneous secularisation and sanctification" – "a simultaneous claim over the whole of personal life accompanied by a diminution in range as the once-established national churches cease to provide religious care for a whole community". From his vantage point, Bruce observes the diminution rightly enough but fails to understand the role that religion still plays outside the "public prestige" that he is keen to measure or quantify.
Steve Bruce’s book is an absorbing study which needs to be deconstructed simply because it dominates the way our intellectual and media elites view religion. Perhaps inadvertently though this book itself is more than a neutral description of what is actually happening for in the end Bruce’s evidence about the public status of Christianity in Britain does not lead him merely to contain his prediction to the future of Christian institutions as difficult as that is to predict. He speaks instead about the death of Christianity itself and, more so, about the death of God. These mental jumps betray Bruce’s own faith about something.
Gerald J Pillay
THE CHRISTIAN FAITH THROUGH LITERATURE AND FILM
David S. Cunningham
(Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2002) 237pp. ISBN 1587430444
Stories dominate the postmodern landscape – television, movies, advertisements, novels. Each of these in their own way seeks to communicate something about the life we live, or hope to live. Through stories new priorities are suggested; invitations are offered; fresh ideas are considered. Stories are told because people want to connect with and understand their world. To tell, listen to, or study stories is distinctly human.
Stories communicate in an extremely powerful way. They get us engaged and involved before we know what we are being taught. They can catch us off guard and sneak a message in the backdoor of our minds. I guess this is one of the reasons Jesus spoke so often to the resistant and cynical in parables. Perhaps it also has something to do with the prevalence of story telling, and its weaker cousin, the illustration, among preachers.
That is one of the many reasons I was attracted to the book Reading is Believing: The Christian Faith through Literature and Film. In a world where stories cannot simply be avoided or ignored (what a sad world that would be) an understanding of the role and function of stories is invaluable. David S. Cunningham, author of Reading is Believing, offers both sound reason for taking the presence of story in our culture seriously, and an excellent collection of in-depth reflections on some of the more significant stories of our time. All of this is done from an explicit, though far from simplistic, Christian perspective.
Reading is Believing has emerged out of the course of the same name that Cunningham teaches at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. For the author the authentic and careful use of stories, films, and novels gives access to an important tool for pastoral and theological reflection. It is also a medium that continually challenges the converted. Stories enable us to grapple with the complexity of life; indeed, they insist that we do. Rarely does any individual see human interaction, or the thought patterns of multiple individuals, with the overarching perspective of the novelist or moviemaker. For Cunningham, the telling of stories reminds us that life is a complicated and interwoven reality. It keeps us thinking. It keeps us learning. It keeps us believing.
It is this insight that forms much of the motive for the book. For many of us to read a novel or to watch a movie is a way to encourage, challenge, and foster ongoing Christian belief. The novel may lead us to a deeper theological understanding. Any story that invites us into the complicated world of community also invites the reader to bring their worldview with them. In stories we are forced to dialogue with the thoughts, insights, and experiences of others. It is here that our understanding of God can grow.
Reading is Believing is also about the Christian faith. It contains a chapter, and therefore a form of story, interacting with each of the lines of the Apostle’s creed. The author seeks to take this widely accepted foundational document and give each line due consideration. I found this to be a helpful and memorable way for the book to be outlined. It also breaks well into twelve monthly or weekly studies for groups.
Each chapter is presented in two parts. Firstly, there is a theological reflection on the significance, history, and varying interpretations of the aspect of the creed in question. This is no dull theology. Cunningham brings the origins and importance of each stanza to life, infusing the reader with its relevance for faith today. Were one uninterested in his insights regarding literature, the summaries of the place and importance of the creed in Christian life could stand alone. The book is worth its cost simply as a creedal resource.
The author suggests that before moving on to the second section of each chapter some readers may want to read the novel or watch the movie in question. Cunningham indicates at what point this may be undertaken. Having said this, however, such a mammoth task is not necessary in order to understand this book. Cunningham has a way of inviting the reader into each story without removing the desire for exploring the work in more depth. Indeed in many of these studies he creates this desire.
After allowing readers to decide whether or not to experience the story for themselves, Cunningham goes on to explore some of the themes of the chosen novel or film in relation to the theological matter at hand. This serves as a further exploration of the creedal priorities and a study in the way pastors, teachers, and theologians can utilize classical and modern stories in their ministries. The provocative list of questions concluding each chapter along with bibliographies of theological literary works that relate to the subject make the book an ideal tool for further personal or group study.
Cunningham has chosen a wide-ranging selection of stories to review and explore. In studying God the Father we interact with Iris Murdoch’s The Time of the Angels. Niclolas Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ and P. D. James’ The Children of Men help Cunningham to explore the humanity of Christ and the significance of the virgin birth. Through Hard Times by Charles Dickens the author looks at the willingness of Christ to suffer with us. The Brothers K by David James Duncan becomes a springboard for examination of the unexpected nature of the resurrection. William Shakespeare’s The Winter Tale, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Flannery O’Connor’s "The Enduring Chill" are vehicles used to cover the ascent, judgement and the Holy Spirit, respectively. The communion of saints is covered through the classic, Animal Dreams by Barbera Kingslover. Both the film and novel Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean help Cunningham to explore the forgiveness of sins. Finally, resurrection and everlasting life take the reader into Graham Green’s The End of the Affair and A Pure Formality by Guiseppe Tornatore. From this list one can begin to see the wide-ranging literary journey through which the book leads. It is worth noting that the studies found in this book are dominated by literature. However, those movie buffs will find that the related lists of books and films gives ample opportunity to explore their genre further.
This book encourages a serious exploration of the priorities set out in the Apostle’s creed. However, it would be misleading to allow this to imply that this makes the studies predictable. Cunningham is not simply finding a way to argue that many of the stories we are familiar with defend orthodoxy. Each study takes unique, unexpected turns. The author’s theological insights often felt new and took me down unexpected, though not unfamiliar paths.
Reading is Believing is for anyone who is interested in taking ministry for this story-saturated time seriously. It is also the type of book I would encourage my literature loving friends to consider.
Bruce Rumbold (ed.)
(Oxford: OUP, 2002) 233 pp. ISBN 0195513525
The modern hospice movement is traditionally identified as commencing with the opening of St Christopher’s Hospice in London in 1967. Its founder, Dame Cicely Saunders intended that the hospice should be a medical and a Christian foundation.
As hospice care (also known as palliative care) spread around the world, it has been at the forefront of the re-emergence of spirituality as a legitimate part of health care. It is significant that the World Health Organisation includes "spiritual care" in the official definition of palliative care. The publication of this book by the Oxford University Press is further evidence that spirituality is firmly on the agenda in health care.
Bruce Rumbold’s diverse background in physics, pastoral theology and health sociology makes him well qualified to edit this collection of essays. With one exception the contributors are Australian. They comprise six theologians, four sociologists, one artist and one philosopher. The sub-title, Social and Pastoral Perspectives is significant. In the preface Bruce explains his view that clinical voices dominate the healthcare literature. He has therefore deliberately omitted clinical contributions. In my view this is regrettable because it tends to emphasise the very division which Bruce wishes to break down.
This is not a book about "Christianity" or "Religion". It is, as stated, a book about social and pastoral perspectives concerning the broad spiritual issues confronting dying persons. From the rich variety of the 12 contributors several themes recurred: the universal spiritual component of dying; the distinction between spirituality and religion; a plea to separate pastoral care from psychosocial disciplines; and the need to see the world through the eyes of the dying person.
The authors clearly have diverse spiritual beliefs and practices. Douglas Eddy prefers the New Age illness narrative over his other three models (restitution, chaos and Christian). He labels the Christian view as "linear" as opposed to what he describes as the "polyphonic" narrative of a New Age outlook. He states, "Christian illness narratives relinquish the need to plan for the future in this life, because they anticipate a future in the next life." However, Eddy’s exploration of the Christian view is based on a patient whose Christian faith bears little resemblance to orthodox Christianity. The patient states, "My whole philosophy of religion is the story of the Good Samaritan."
In his contribution "Offering Spiritual Care", Bill Jenkins reminds us that the ministry between chaplain and dying patient is two-way. He quotes from Sachs (The Christian Vision of Humanity, Liturgical Press, 1991) who suggests that those who are dying are not objects of care, but human beings "who by their very act of dying are prophets speaking to us. Those who feel threatened by death, who hide from it, or try to deny it, need the dying and what they can reveal to us of ourselves and of God." Jenny Hockey’s chapter on "Dying the Way We Live" presents similar ideas. She concludes with the statement that spiritual care is not something which staff deliver, but "it is the product of social interaction, something that takes place within the flow of quite specific local agendas."
One of the distressing aspects of palliative care is caring for a patient who experiences a state of confused anguish, labelled "terminal agitation" or "terminal restlessness", in the last days of life. I identified with Regina Millard’s description of one of the major causes. "Spirituality is also meant to sustain people as they confront some of the demons within, which often emerge during times of great stress and impending loss." Wrestling with these "demons" while the person is still mentally alert may prevent terminal agitation. Of course, the real challenge is to confront our demons throughout our normal life, so that when we face death, the demon cupboard is already empty.
Paul Beirne’s chapter on "Crossing Boundaries" includes some perceptive and challenging statements about relating to people with different religious outlooks. "The assertion that we are all spiritual beings, although not necessarily religious beings, implies that any deeply human encounter will have a spiritual dimension. … The challenge of both receiving and offering spiritual care has not been explored to any great extent." Beirne then proceeds into quite detailed accounts of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and a recent Korean religion called Ch’ong-gyo. Although these sections were fascinating, I felt they were out of place, given the title of the book.
I found Bruce Rumbold’s contributions the most helpful. He writes with clarity, perception and wisdom. In addition to his two chapters "From Religion to Spirituality" and "Dying as a Spiritual Quest", Bruce contributes a Preface and a Summary. The book is worth buying for these contributions alone. He concludes, "Everyone is responsible for spiritual care because it is a human, not merely a professional, responsibility. Spiritual care begins not in the final days of life, but in the communities in which we live and are formed as people. Part of the spiritual care task of palliative care is to tell the stories of people finding life in facing death in ways that society at large may hear."
My major disappointment was the absence of any clear Christian view. I accept that the emphasis was social and pastoral, but considerable space was afforded to expositions of other religious traditions, especially varieties of Buddhism. There is a need for a companion book about "Christian Perspectives on Spirituality in Palliative Care". This could include reflections on the way Jesus faced his own death, the significance of the resurrection, biblical passages of special relevance to those facing death, and the particular contribution that could be made by clinical professionals.
Anyone interested in understanding palliative care in Australia could benefit from reading the special supplement to the Medical Journal of Australia 179 (15 September, 2003). This includes a contribution by Bruce Rumbold: "Caring for the spirit: lessons from working with the dying" In this paper Bruce acknowledges that "Clinical practitioners are often in an ideal position to offer spiritual care, precisely because they are involved in the experiences that disrupt patients’ lives." As a palliative care physician I regard every interaction with a patient as a spiritual event. Patients frequently wish to explore issues of meaning and transcendence. They seem to find it helpful to explore these with a clinician who can also provide factual information about their disease process, likely clinical course, and duration of survival. The most comprehensive support for the patient and family should occur if spiritual care is shared between the clinical and non-clinical team members. This also provides a support system for the staff who share the journey of suffering.
ESSAYS IN HONOUR OF REV. DR. GRAHAM HUGHES
William W. Emilsen and John T. Squires (eds.)
(Sydney: UTC Publications, 2003) vi, 126 pp. ISBN 0958585679
The book begins with an interview with Graham Hughes, since it is written "to mark the formal close of his teaching career" at the United Theological College in Sydney (i). His pilgrimage in scholarship is itself an affirmation of liturgical studies as a significant discipline. Hughes’ approach is holistic in two respects, seeking the integration of personal and public worship, and of public worship with everyday life. Most of the contributors to the book acknowledge different dimensions of Hughes’ valuable thinking on liturgy.
Gordon Lathrop’s essay, "Thanksgiving and Beseeching: a Liturgical Spirituality of Reorientation in the World," provides a framework for the book. "Every basic act of the assembly is marked by both praise and lament, thanksgiving and beseeching – and these tensions give us a way to live" (71). In this context, Howard Wallace points to the Psalms as a resource book for prayer, John Squires draws attention to the connection between doxology and theology in Romans, and Chris Mostert leads the reader through an exploration of the nature of intercession. Stephen Pickard and Paul Walton carefully examine the significance of ordination and diakonia respectively for our worship. Add to these, Robert Gribben’s questioning of contemporary approaches to worship by some foundational understandings, John O’Neill’s focused reflection on the Sursum Corda, Doug Purnell’s descriptive account of the function of his art work in the worship space, Grahame Ellis’ brief consideration of God’s intention that humanity should worship God, and Janet Dawson’s reflective, narrative poem on celebrating the eucharist today.
Lathrop rightly declares that thanksgiving alone can be "uncritical support for the status quo" (73), but this cannot be sustained in any encounter with the triune God. The balance comes from beseeching that is a genuine prayer to God, a willingness to enter into the needs of others. Liturgy forms the worshipper to live with this balance of thanks and beseeching.
From the Psalms, Wallace reminds the reader that prayer is a conversation. It may not come naturally, but the psalms offer words and feelings that capture the full expression of the human spirit. Whatever the feelings, even words of protest to God embody faith. The Psalms take away the aloneness of the pray-er. "Thinking of the psalms as conversation may also help us re-conceptualize more of our life in terms of prayer" (29).
In commencing his article, Squires refers to a statement by Hughes about the equal value of the second person discourse to God, the heart of liturgical life, with the third person discourse about God, the essence of academic courses. Squires sees Romans as illustrative of this. At significant points in the letter, Paul includes prayer and thanksgiving as responses to God’s grace. So theology and doxology are interrelated.
In writing about intercession, Mostert is realistic in describing God as "an elusive conversation-partner" (45), and in declaring that no-one knows how current events are related to the prayers of the faithful. He explores the nature of, and the reasons for intercession before he points to Christ as "the intercessor", an understanding which is key to our practice. He helpfully connects our motivation for prayer for others to a natural instinct to ask God to rectify the condition of creation, to God’s desire for the reconciliation of the whole world, and to our vision for the healing and renewal of all things.
Much of Pickard’s essay is around two emphases in the understanding of ordination – the ontological or Catholic perspective, and the functional or Protestant viewpoint. He affirms the place of the formation of the ordinand in the ecclesial community, and suggests that ordination is about having a new set of relationships within the people of God. While he argued elsewhere that "the purpose of an ordained ministry is to energize and direct the church’s praise of the triune God in the world" (97), this section struck me as somewhat disconnected from the rest of his argument.
Walton argues from the framework of double diakonia, as described by Paulos Mar Gregorios, "the service of God in worship on behalf of the people of the world and the service of fellow human beings in the name of God" (101). The author holds up a clearly diaconal perspective on worship. As participation of the people in the work of God, worship is divine service. Also, since liturgy connects to life in the world, it is a foundational expression of the missio Dei.
Gribben’s thoughts sound like a lament about much of the way worship seems to be evolving, with little element of hope. Still, he affirms the purpose of worship as to give God glory and to nurture character, and he sees a way forward in recovery of the sacramental and symbolic dimensions of worship (62–63). O’Neill’s focus on the Sursum Corda is a reminder of the importance of the consistency of word and action in worship. Purnell stretches the reader beyond the world of words to painting as visual prayer. The purpose of his art in worship is to "evoke mystery" through bringing the worshipper into conversation with the traditional Christian symbols, and this is prayer (117). God’s plan and design in worship is central for Ellis, "It is not we who utter the words, but rather the words which utter us. – When God opens our lips, and only then, is it possible for our mouths to proclaim God’s praise" (123).
There is a prayerful spirit that flows through much of this book. With its desire to address attitudes as well as understanding, it serves as a valuable resource for those who want to think more deeply about the nature of worship and their engagement in it, especially within the reformed and evangelical tradition. The book also recalls the spirit of the one it is intended to honour.
Neil E. Sims
EAST OF THE EUPHRATES: EARLY CHRISTIANITY IN ASIA
T. V. Philip
(Delhi, CCS & ISPCK, 1998) 192pp. ISBN 8172144415
This book and the following have each been published jointly by the Christian Sahitya Samithy and the Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in Delhi, India. The author, Dr. T.V. Philip, is known to the readers of Colloquium as a member of its Editorial Panel.
Philip has had a rich experience in academic and ecumenical activities. Early in his career he was in Europe as a Secretary for Asia of the World Student Christian Federation for five years and also as a Visiting Professor at Arhus University, Denmark, for one year. There then followed seven years as a Professor of the United Theological College of Bengalore, India, and four years as Director of the Senate of Serampore University. For the last twenty odd years he has been a lecturer in Church History and Ecumenism in Adelaide and Brisbane. He is now retired but still holds the position of Fellow of the Brisbane College of Theology and of Visiting Professor of Griffith University.
This impressive record needs to be recognised to understand the significance of the two books under review. They have been written by an expert with experience in a wide variety of localities and in very diverse circumstances. He is also a prominent lay member of the Mar Thoma Church, which traces its origins back to the apostle Thomas. As a St Thomas Christian as well as an Indian, Philip has a reply to the typical Western academic question whether it is historically correct to trace his Church’s origins back to the Apostle. His rejoinder is that it is up to Western scholars to prove that St Thomas was never associated with India!
His two recent publications bear the clear marks of first-rate scholarship, of a unique expertise in ecumenism and of an "East of the Euphrates" perspective. In East of the Euphrates: Early Christianity in Asia, the author attempts to present "a general and brief introduction to the exciting and fascinating story of the movement of the Christian Gospel in Asian lands" (xii) over the first fifteen centuries. Despite the limited evidence he believes that it can be shown that Christianity was present in Ceylon, Burma, Tibet, Indonesia and Korea before the arrival of European missionaries.
He develops his thoughtful and penetrating reflections in seven chapters. These deal in succession with Christianity in Edessa, Persia, Arabia and Central Asia, China, India in the first century, India up to A.D. 1500, and finally in other places in Asia. While Philip remains extremely cautious throughout, he nevertheless is able to present a tantalising picture not only of what the actual situation was, but also of what it possibly could have been in far away countries such as Japan, the Philippines and Mongolia in the light of scanty evidence, and also of what it might have been if the external circumstances had been different.
There is, however, a sobering chapter at the end of the book entitled "In the Shadows of History" in which we read about the decline of Christianity under Islam and about the destructive activities by Western conquerors and by European missionaries zealous to convert Asian Christians. Finally we receive an honest appraisal of the decay of the spiritual life within the church, which leads to the rather sombre but very realistic last sentence of the book: "The enemies of the church are often inside and not outside the church."
In recent years there has been a keen interest in the development of Christianity in Asia, e.g. in a publication on almost the same subject by another Brisbane scholar, Ian Gillman. The uniqueness of Philip’s work lies in the fact that it was written from a non-Western perspective. The reader cannot escape the conclusion that Christianity as we know it is Western. The books of the New Testament direct us to the West, i.e. to Europe. It was the Roman Empire where it all happened. The great centres of authority were Constantinople and Rome. There was, however, also, the author emphasises passionately, a movement, hardly mentioned in the Scriptures, towards the East, beyond the Euphrates. Here the large Persian Empire, which included a part of Northern India, was the dominating force.
The influence there did not come from Paul and the early missionaries mentioned in the New Testament. The Christian outreach rather came from Judeo-Christianity. East of the Euphrates we see a distinctive Asian theology emerging, which stood in contrast to Latin theology. The Persian Church accepted officially the Nestorian position in A.D. 486. One gets the impression that in discussing these matters the author, though not a Nestorian himself, is sympathetic towards the Nestorian position and believes that it still can benefit the whole of the Christian Church.
This study has succeeded in demonstrating the importance of early Christianity beyond the Euphrates and in reminding us of its significance for the worldwide church today.
EDINBURGH TO SALVADOR: TWENTIETH CENTURY ECUMENICAL MISSIOLOGY
T. V. Philip
(Delhi, CCS & ISPCK, 1999) 265pp. ISBN 8172145365
In Edinburgh to Salvador: Twentieth Century Ecumenical Missiology Philip offers an overview of twentieth century developments in ecumenical missiology. This book, published in the final year of what can be called "the ecumenical century", appears at a most appropriate time. It presents as it were a conclusion to the enormous ecumenical evolution that has taken place. We are, however, reminded by the author of the important connection between the ecumenical century and the missionary century that preceded it. The roots of the ecumenical movement are found in the missionary enthusiasm that preceded it: this missionary zeal itself was fed by an even earlier evangelical revival, inspired by the movement of Pietism in Germany, by men like the Wesleys and Whitefield, by the rise of Methodism and by the creation of the evangelical party in the Church of England. In the USA Jonathan Edwards was the first outstanding leader of the Awakening.
There is even more to be said about the origins of the ecumenical movement. Philip, writing from an "East of the Euphrates perspective", says it clearly: the ecumenical spirit was prompted by pressure from Christians outside Europe and North America. In Africa and Asia it had become apparent that the missionary endeavour required cooperation between the churches. Asian Christians protested against denominational divisions imported from Europe. Ecumenism was born out of necessity! The word "ecumenical" appears first at a missionary conference in New York in 1900, preceding the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910. Edinburgh itself was an end and a beginning, the conclusion of earlier missionary conferences and the forerunner of the modern ecumenical movement.
A fascinating tour through the century of ecumenism follows this first most important introductory chapter. We not only find ourselves at the important missionary conferences (Edinburgh 1910, Jerusalem 1928, Madras 1938, Whitby 1947, Willingen 1952) and ecumenical assemblies (Amsterdam, Evanston, New Delhi, Uppsala, Nairobi, Vancouver, Canberra, Harare, 1948 – 1998) but also at other world gatherings where the subject is the mission of the church in the age of ecumenism. Philip presents a really breathtaking account of the missionary, ecumenical and ecclesiastical struggles, of newly gained insights and of the gradual discoveries that Church and Mission belong together and that mission and unity also belong together.
We witness the tremendous achievement of the integration of the International Missionary Council and the World Council of Churches in New Delhi in 1961 as a result of long and painful discussions. It is as if the churches are on a steep learning curve which does not stop at the year 1961, though. Subsequently we read about the only partly successful attempts to overcome the ceumenical-evangelical polarity. There is further the growing sense that the Church does not exist for itself but for the world, that the Holy Catholic Church needs to face up to the existence of the other world religions, to the need for inter-church dialogue, and to the realities of cultural diversity and contextuality.
This study of missionary and ecumenical developments is strengthened considerably by many quotations from documents and resolutions. Attached to this story of ecumenical missiology as an appendix is the most important and comprehensive statement on mission made in 1982 by the World Council of Churches, after lengthy discussions with churches all over the world, entitled "Mission and Evangelism - An Ecumenical Affirmation".
This book deserves the attention of people interested in ecumenism and is a must for all ministers and theological students. It should be found in all theological libraries.
(Phoenix: London, 2003) ISBN 1 84212 655 5
Few new works appear on Zarathustra in the popular press and given the general lack of knowledge of this prophet and the religion he founded it is usually encouraging when something does. This widely available book by Paul Kriwaczek is quite informative and, at times, very entertaining as a travelogue. He is particularly informative, for example, on the life of Nietzsche and the adventures of Anquetil Du Perron in India. However, the book appears to me to be fundamentally flawed, failing in its stated purpose – a search for the legacy of Zarathustra and his teachings.
The failure seems to be due to the author’s sparse knowledge of Zoroastrianism, a major flaw in a work on Zarathustra (also called Zoroaster). The basic premise of the book is that the author is tracing the influence of Zarathustra on the world. Without direct reference to either the words or religion of the prophet this proves to be a problem. At every turn, through an interesting storyline and exotic travels, Kriwaczek provides evidence for the influence of Zarathustra - but I would want to argue that the influence he finds is not Zarathustra’s, rather it is something he mistakenly believes to be Zarathustrian.
The problem lies in Kriwaczek’s understanding that Zarathustra taught of two equally powerful but opposing gods. In fact, he did not. In the Zoroastrian religious corpus (the Avesta) only the oldest part (the Gathas) is attributable to Zarathustra himself, and in the Gathas there are two small passages alone that refer to anything vaguely resembling dualism. Both very clearly tell only of the importance of choosing well between good and bad. There is no mention anywhere in the Gathas of a devil figure, an opposing god, or an independent evil. The author refers to Angra Mainyu as "Zarathustra’s force of evil...", but the name Angra Mainyu appears nowhere in the Gathas, being instead a later construct. I would be forced to say that when Kriwaczek says that "Zarathustra saw in the workings of the world a clear sign that evil was an independent force that must be combated" he is mistaken.
To be fair, Kriwaczek appears to be the victim of his sources. The idea that Zarathustra taught of cosmic dualism is an old idea dating back to 18th and 19th century Western scholarship, then still at an early stage in Gathic studies. It is a persistent idea, despite more recent scholarship and oddly enough despite the growing consensus that Zarathustra founded the world’s first monotheistic religion. The mistaken notion of Zarathushtrian dualism was drawn from early translations of Sassanian era texts, which themselves were based on a poor knowledge of the then already very ancient Gathic language, and which were also heavily influenced by the late Zoroastrian "heresy" of Zurvanism. Zurvanism sought to explain evil by suggesting that the good and evil forces in existence were both equal but under another even greater force, Zurvan. By trying to shift the question and not answer it, it proved itself one of the poorer attempts to explain the co-existence of evil and a wholly good omnipotent god.
Another source for Kriwaczek’s notion of "cosmic dualism" is the newer syncretic religion created by Mani in the 3rd century. Mani, who built his religion mostly on Christian and Buddhist elements, incorporated some Zurvanite notions, and claimed that the world was the creation of the devil and therefore inherently evil. Unfortunately, this concept bears little similarity to Zarathustra’s teachings, nor to the later teachings of the church he founded, which considers the universe to be the good creation of God, Ahura Mazda, a creation that is evolving to perfection in accordance with divine principals (Asha).
There are a number of problems with the conclusions and comparisons that Kriwaczek goes on to make. Here we can note only a very few of them. Kriwaczek devotes much space to the Cathars and the Albigensian "heresy". The Cathars were brutally suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church in the 13th century for (as Kriwaczek states), "incorporating into their Christianity a belief in dualism". He then adds that "today we may recognize that belief as a legacy of Zarathustra’s ancient teaching." Even if a belief in dualism were the major reason for their suppression, the Cathars were historically most influenced by Manichaeism, which, as noted already, bore no close relationship to the original thoughts of Zarathustra, nor to the more "orthodox" theology of Zoroastrianism. The influence of Mani on Cathar beliefs is clearly shown when Kriwaczek notes that it was a Manichean’s duty to avoid "blasphemy, animal killing, meat eating, wine drinking, soil tilling, fruit picking, plant harvesting, bathing and sex. Work was of course out of the question." The Cathars, we are told, held the same beliefs – however there is nothing in this that speaks of a "legacy of Zarathustra". The author says that the Cathars considered work evil, as "any effort in this world would only support the Prince of Darkness". However, Zoroastrians have always been enjoined to work hard as labour is supposed to support the progress of God’s evolving universe. The Cathars despised the physical world and believed that "only Satan could have created such a miserable existence". But Zoroastrians believed that existence is of God, inherently good, and that it is progressing towards perfection. The Cathars were deeply ascetic, and believed that the body was evil; Zoroastrians forbade fasting and believed that all God’s gifts in the world are to be enjoyed, in moderation. The Cathars did not marry and believed sex was evil; Zoroastrians were always expected to marry and have children, as procreation is part of God’s design.
Whereas Catharism has only the slimmest possible link to Zarathustra, Kriwaczek draws even less obvious evidence for his thesis from other sources. The author speculates that the Bulgarians introduced Zoroastrianism to Europe, and among his supporting evidence he notes that the temples of the Bulgars were reportedly flat-topped and square, as were Zoroastrian temples. But this is too slim to hold the weight. In trying to find connections between the "Zoroastrian" Cathars and Bulgars he notes the practice of the Bulgar Khan of drinking wine from an enemy’s skull and an allusion in a French report of the time of a similar practice among Cathars. This is somewhat tenuous, to say the least.
Nietzsche receives a great deal of space and is said by Kriwaczek to have preached "a form of Zarathustra’s philosophy" wrapped "in modern packaging". This despite Nietzsche’s own stated intention to undo the damage done to the world by Zarathustra’s ideas of morality. Nietzsche said god was dead, that man was flawed. Zarathustra would not have agreed with him. No scholar of Zoroastrianism considers Nietzsche’s work Also Sprach Zarathustra as baring any real relationship to the historical Zarathustra. In fact, unlike Nietzsche, Zarathustra did not think of the world as either bad or flawed, nor that belief in God was irrelevant.
The book starts promisingly enough, and has value as a travel story and for its many interesting asides and historical notes, but its potential to teach is lost irretrievably in its inadequacies. As a work that ostensibly seeks to find the legacy of Zarathustra it is, sadly, a singular failure. Much more thorough research into primary texts and the words of the prophet is needed to accomplish the task.
Mark Beresford, Course co-ordinator, Youth Ministry, St Mark’s National Theological Centre, Canberra.
Michael Bird, doctoral student, University of Queensland.
Dr Doug Bridge, Palliative Care Physician, Royal Perth Hospital and Murdoch Community Hospice, Perth.
Dr Chris Hanlon, Parish Priest, Caboolture Catholic Parish sessional lecturer in History, University of Queensland.
Antony Karasulas, doctoral student, the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Australian National University.
Revd. Professor Bill Loader, Professor of New Testament, Murdoch University, Perth.
Dr Robert K. McIver, Senior Lecturer, Avondale College, Cooranbong, NSW.
Revd Dr. Richard Moore, former Lecturer in New Testament (retired), Baptist Theological College, Perth.
Revd Dr. John Olley, former Principal (retired), Baptist Theological College, Perth.
Revd Dr Michael Parsons, Lecturer in Christian Thought, Baptist Theological College, Perth.
Prof. Gerald Pillay, Principal, Liverpool Hope University College, UK.
Revd Dr Neil E. Sims, Lecturer in Ministry / Mission, Trinity Theological College, Uniting Church College, Brisbane.
Dr Andrew Sloane, Lecturer in Old Testament and Christian Thought, Morling Theological College, Eastwood, NSW.
Revd Jim Sparks, doctoral student, Murdoch University, Perth.
Revd Dr Hendrik C. Spykerboer, former Professor in Old Testament (retired), Trinity Theological College, Brisbane.
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