Ben-Johanan, “Jacob’s Younger Brother”

I’m delighted to join Marc in re-starting our Scholarship Roundup feature here on the Forum. The feature highlights new books and articles on law and religion (generally speaking) that we think will interest our followers. A few of you have told us you miss the feature–so now it’s back!

Here’s a new book from Harvard, out this month, on Jewish-Catholic relations after Vatican II: Jacob’s Younger Brother: Christian-Jewish Relations after Vatican II, by Karma Ben-Johanan (Humboldt). The author suggests that, behind the scenes, each side of the relationship has continued to have reservations about exactly what the 20th-century rapprochement between these two great religions means. Here’s the publisher’s description:

A revealing account of contemporary tensions between Jews and Christians, playing out beneath the surface of conciliatory interfaith dialogue.

A new chapter in Jewish–Christian relations opened in the second half of the twentieth century when the Second Vatican Council exonerated Jews from the accusation of deicide and declared that the Jewish people had never been rejected by God. In a few carefully phrased statements, two millennia of deep hostility were swept into the trash heap of history.

But old animosities die hard. While Catholic and Jewish leaders publicly promoted interfaith dialogue, doubts remained behind closed doors. Catholic officials and theologians soon found that changing their attitude toward Jews could threaten the foundations of Christian tradition. For their part, many Jews perceived the new Catholic line as a Church effort to shore up support amid atheist and secular advances. Drawing on extensive research in contemporary rabbinical literature, Karma Ben-Johanan shows that Jewish leaders welcomed the Catholic condemnation of antisemitism but were less enthusiastic about the Church’s sudden urge to claim their friendship. Catholic theologians hoped Vatican II would turn the page on an embarrassing history, hence the assertion that the Church had not reformed but rather had always loved Jews, or at least should have. Orthodox rabbis, in contrast, believed they were finally free to say what they thought of Christianity.

Jacob’s Younger Brother pulls back the veil of interfaith dialogue to reveal how Orthodox rabbis and Catholic leaders spoke about each other when outsiders were not in the room. There Ben-Johanan finds Jews reluctant to accept the latest whims of a Church that had unilaterally dictated the terms of Jewish–Christian relations for centuries.

“Christianity and Constitutionalism” (Aroney & Leigh, eds.)

We are delighted to announce that the Forum will bring back the tradition of occasional posts on interesting looking new books in law and religion and related areas.

And here is a fascinating new volume to kick us off: Christianity and Constitutionalism, edited by constitutional scholars Nicholas Aroney and Ian Leigh (OUP 2022). The book contains contributions (by an impressive group) on historical influences; political concepts including sovereignty, rule of law, democracy, conscience, and many others; and theologically informed ideas relevant to constitutionalism (e.g. natural law and subsidiarity).

Tosato on Biblical Interpretation

Here is an interesting new book from the Pontifical Gregorian University’s press, The Catholic Statute of Biblical Interpretation by Fr. Angelo Tosato, newly translated into English by our friend and frequent academic collaborator, Prof. Monica Lugato of LUMSA. Fr. Tosato, who died in 1999, was a professor at the Lateran and the Gregorian Universities, specializing in Biblical interpretation. But the book is accessible to non-experts as well. Among the topics it covers are the concept of the Bible as a set of divinely inspired texts mediated through human authorship, and the distinction between what Tosato calls “the bishops’ judicial interpretation” of the Bible, which may be authoritative for Catholics at any given time, and the “authentic” interpretation, which is known fully only to God. Because a space inevitably exists between the judicial and authentic interpretation, Tosato argues, the former is always subject to rethinking–guided, of course, by Holy Tradition.

Here is the description of the book from the publisher:

A «rigorous and exhaustive study on the official Catholic doctrine in the realm of Biblical interpretation», this work is «defended by heavily equipped garrisons of quotations in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and fortified by walls of Church documents» and based upon a «a profound knowledge of juridical questions and problems». The Author begins by clarifying the definition of the Bible for the Catholic faith, then explores its nature, origin, purpose and functions in relation to its different addressees, finally analysing the prerequisites, criteria, and forms of accurate biblical interpretation. «One detail may draw the reader’s attention. Angelo Tosato asserts, with solid reasons, that the juridical authority of the Magisterium is limited to the actualised interpretation of biblical texts for our world, and has not to deal with the proper exegetical and scientific task of recovering the original meaning of these texts. The Magisterium’s decisions, moreover, can be modified, corrected, and rectified, as every human decision». But this is just one of the many components of the Catholic Statute of biblical interpretation, a Statute that seeks to reveal «the vast and gorgeous panoramas of a truthful interpretation of our Scriptures».

A New Book on Pontius Pilate

I’ve been meaning to post this interesting-looking new book on Pontius Pilate and the trial of Jesus by David Dusenbury, a post-doc at Hebrew University: The Innocence of Pontius Pilate How the Roman Trial of Jesus Shaped History (Hurst). The Gospel accounts paint Pilate as an ambivalent figure, more or less forced by circumstances to issue a sentence of death against Jesus. According to Dusenbury, though, some early Christian writers went further, arguing that Pilate had in fact acted justly at the trial. Dusenbury maintains that arguments about Pilate’s “innocence” helped shape the emerging Christian theory of religious tolerance.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

The gospels and the first-century historians agree: Jesus was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate, the Roman imperial prefect in Jerusalem. To this day, Christians of all churches confess that Jesus died ‘under Pontius Pilate’. But what exactly does that mean?

Within decades of Jesus’ death, Christians began suggesting that it was the Judaean authorities who had crucified Jesus—a notion later echoed in the Qur’an. In the third century, one philosopher raised the notion that, although Pilate had condemned Jesus, he’d done so justly; this idea survives in one of the main strands of modern New Testament criticism. So what is the truth of the matter? And what is the history of that truth?

David Lloyd Dusenbury reveals Pilate’s ‘innocence’ as not only a neglected theological question, but a recurring theme in the history of European political thought. He argues that Jesus’ interrogation by Pilate, and Augustine of Hippo’s North African sermon on that trial, led to the concept of secularity and the logic of tolerance emerging in early modern Europe. Without the Roman trial of Jesus, and the arguments over Pilate’s innocence, the history of empire—from the first century to the twentyfirst—would have been radically different.

A New Work on Patriotism and Other Loyalties

I’ve learned a great deal from Professor Steven B. Smith’s work on political philosophy over the years. A few years back, I watched his terrific lectures (and tried to keep up with the reading!) which are available to everybody, and then read his fine book, Modernity and Its Discontents.

Early next year, Professor Smith has a new book in the offing: Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes (Yale University Press) that is worth highlighting. For the law and religion crowd, I’m sure this will be a timely and important contribution on the question of balancing various competing loyalties. Here is the description.

The concept of patriotism has fallen on hard times. What was once a value that united Americans has become so politicized by both the left and the right that it threatens to rip apart the social fabric. On the right, patriotism has become synonymous with nationalism and an “us versus them” worldview, while on the left it is seen as an impediment to acknowledging important ethnic, religious, or racial identities and a threat to cosmopolitan globalism.
 
Steven B. Smith reclaims patriotism from these extremist positions and advocates for a patriotism that is broad enough to balance loyalty to country against other loyalties. Describing how it is a matter of both the head and the heart, Smith shows how patriotism can bring the country together around the highest ideals of equality and is a central and ennobling disposition that democratic societies cannot afford to do without.

Don Drakeman’s New Book: “The Hollow Core of Constitutional Theory”

Congratulations to Center board member Don Drakeman for his new book, available later this month, The Hollow Core of Constitutional Theory: Why We Need the Framers (CUP 2020)! Don has been making the case for an approach to originalism that looks to original meaning as well as original intention for several years. I know that I have benefited from his work greatly over the years.

More later, when I’ve had a chance to read the book. But for the moment, wonderful news.

A New Book on Belonging

Sociologists of religion often distinguish “believing” from “belonging.” There is “belonging without believing”–being formally part of a religious community without having religious convictions–and “believing without belonging”–subscribing to religious claims while remaining formally outside a religious community. For what it’s worth, we Americans tend more towards the latter, especially now, with the rise of the Nones.

Cambridge University Press has released an interesting-looking book by Joseph David (Sapir Academic College, Israel), Kinship, Law and Politics: An Anatomy of Belonging, which no doubt touches on these issues. Here’s the description from the Cambridge site:

Why are we so concerned with belonging? In what ways does our belonging constitute our identity? Is belonging a universal concept or a culturally dependent value? How does belonging situate and motivate us? Joseph E. David grapples with these questions through a genealogical analysis of ideas and concepts of belonging. His book transports readers to crucial historical moments in which perceptions of belonging have been formed, transformed, or dismantled. The cases presented here focus on the pivotal role played by belonging in kinship, law, and political order, stretching across cultural and religious contexts from eleventh-century Mediterranean religious legal debates to twentieth-century statist liberalism in Western societies. With his thorough inquiry into diverse discourses of belonging, David pushes past the politics of belonging and forces us to acknowledge just how wide-ranging and fluid notions of belonging can be.

Hall Reviews “The Cambridge Companion to the First Amendment and Religious Liberty”

Professor Mark David Hall has this review of The Cambridge Companion to the First Amendment and Religious Liberty, edited by Professors Michael Breidenbach and Owen Anderson. I was pleased to contribute a chapter to the book.

The Cambridge Companion to the First Amendment and Religious Liberty (2020)

This volume is now available for purchase, with many worthwhile and interesting contributions. I have an essay in here as well, The Two Separations.

Check it out!

Wilson & Drakeman’s Church-State Reader

I’m delighted to notice this new church-state reader put together by John F. Wilson (Princeton, emeritus) and our longtime friend and center board member, Donald L. Drakeman, Church and State in American History: Key Documents, Decisions, and Commentary from Five Centuries (4th edition, Routledge). Don kindly informs me that what is new about this edition of the reader is a greatly expanded historical section before the American founding, beginning with the Biblical texts and proceeding through the early Christian and medieval era. It also has the American context, the big Supreme Court cases, and so on.

Every time I teach a church-state course of any kind, I cobble together material from a number of different sources as a kind of rapid introduction for students to this area of the law. This book looks like a handy solution. And I’m sure it’s written with Don’s typical flair and panache.

Here is the description from Routledge:

Church and State in American History illuminates the complex relationships among the political and religious authority structures of American society, and illustrates why church-state issues have remained controversial since our nation’s founding. It has been in classroom use for over 50 years.

John Wilson and Donald Drakeman explore the notion of America as “One Nation Under God” by examining the ongoing debate over the relationship of church and state in the United States. Prayers and religious symbols in schools and other public spaces, school vouchers and tax support for faith-based social initiatives continue to be controversial, as are arguments among advocates of pro-choice and pro-life positions. The updated 4th edition includes selections from colonial charters, Supreme Court decisions, and federal legislation, along with contemporary commentary and incisive interpretations by modern scholars. Figures as divergent as John Winthrop, Anne Hutchinson, James Madison, John F. Kennedy, and Sandra Day O’Connor speak from these pages, as do Robert Bellah, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The continuing public and scholarly interest in this field, as well as a significant evolution in the Supreme Court’s church-state jurisprudence, renders this timely re-edition as essential reading for students of law, American History, Religion, and Politics.