Metaxas, “Martin Luther”

9781101980019As my colleague Marc pointed out last week, 2017 is a very important anniversary for law and religion scholars, and a number of new works on Luther and the Protestant Reformation have appeared throughout the year. Not least of these is Eric Metaxas’s much awaited biography of Luther, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Penguin Random House), which appears next month. OK, the title is a bit over the top. But Metaxas’s biography of Bonhoeffer was very well received, and this book promises to be an important one as well. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas comes a brilliant and inspiring biography of the most influential man in modern history, Martin Luther, in time for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation

On All Hallow’s Eve in 1517, a young monk named Martin Luther posted a document he hoped would spark an academic debate, but that instead ignited a conflagration that would forever destroy the world he knew. Five hundred years after Luther’s now famous Ninety-five Theses appeared, Eric Metaxas, acclaimed biographer of the bestselling Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, paints a startling portrait of the wild figure whose adamantine faith cracked the edifice of Western Christendom and dragged medieval Europe into the future. Written in riveting prose and impeccably researched, Martin Luther tells the searing tale of a humble man who, by bringing ugly truths to the highest seats of power, caused the explosion whose sound is still ringing in our ears. Luther’s monumental faith and courage gave birth to the ideals of liberty, equality, and individualism that today lie at the heart of all modern life.

 

“The Urban World and the First Christians” (Gill et al. eds)

9780802874511“For here we have no lasting city,” the first-century Epistle to the Hebrews proclaims, “but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Early Christianity was mostly, though not exclusively, an urban phenomenon, and, notwithstanding the ambivalence the author of Hebrews felt towards the earthly city, Christians learned, of necessity, to negotiate their way in it. A forthcoming book from Eerdmans, The Urban World and the First Christians, edited, among others, by archeologist David Gill (University of Suffolk), discusses how Christians of the apostolic and sub-apostolic eras adapted to the urban social, cultural, and physical environments. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

In the tradition of The First Urban Christians by Wayne Meeks, this book explores the relationship between the earliest Christians and the city environment. Experts in classics, early Christianity, and human geography analyze the growth, development, and self-understanding of the early Christian movement in urban settings.

The book’s contributors first look at how the urban physical, cultural, and social environments of the ancient Mediterranean basin affected the ways in which early Christianity progressed. They then turn to how the earliest Christians thought and theologized in their engagement with cities. With a rich variety of expertise and scholarship, The Urban World and the First Christians is an important contribution to the understanding of early Christianity.

Corráin, “The Irish Church, Its Reform and the English Invasion”

In June, Four Courts Press will release The Irish Church, Its Reform and the English Invasion by Donnchadh Ó Corráin (University College Cork). The publisher’s description follows:

Irish HistoryThis book radically reassesses the reform of the Irish Church in the twelfth century, on its own terms and in the context of the English Invasion that it helped precipitate. Professor Ó Corráin sets these profound changes in the context of the pre-Reform Irish church, in which he is a foremost expert. He re-examines how Canterbury’s political machinations drew its archbishops into Irish affairs, offering Irish kings and bishops unsought advice, as if they had some responsibility for the Irish church: the author exposes their knowledge as limited and their concerns not disinterested.

The Irish Church, its Reform and the English Invasion considers the success of the major reforming synods in giving Ireland a new diocesan structure, but equally how they failed to impose marriage reform and clerical celibacy, a failure mirrored elsewhere. And when St Malachy of Armagh took the revolutionary step of replacing indigenous Irish monasticism with Cistercian abbeys and Augustinian priories, the consequences were enormous. They involved the transfer to the bishops and foreign orders of vast properties from the great traditional houses (such as Clonmacnoise and Monasterboice) which, the author argues, was better called asset-stripping, if not vandalism.

Laudabiliter satis (1155/6), Pope Adrian IV’s letter to Henry II, gave legitimacy to English royal intervention in Ireland on the specious grounds that the Irish were Christians in name, pagan in fact. Henry came to Ireland in 1171, most Irish kings submitting to him without a blow, and, at the Council of Cashel (1171/2), the Irish episcopate granted the kingship of Ireland to him and his successors forever – a revolution in church and state. These momentous events are re-evaluated here, the author delivering a damning verdict on the motivations of popes, bishops and kings.

Turlej, “Justiniana Prima”

In June, Columbia University Press will release Justiniana Prima: An Underestimated Aspect of Justinian’s Church Policy by Stanislaw Turlej (Jagiellonian University). The publisher’s description follows:

Justiniana PrimaThe book explores the history of Justiniana Prima, a city built by Emperor Justinian I (527-565) in his birthplace near Niš in present-day Serbia. Previous studies focused on determining the city’s location, underestimating the significance of analyzing written sources for the reconstruction of this city’s genesis and importance. Using information from Emperor Justinian’s Novels XI and CXXXI, as well as Book IV of Procopius of Caesarea’s De aedificiis, Stanislaw Turlej endeavors to show that Justiniana Prima’s historic significance resulted from granting its Church the status of an archbishopric with its own province in 535, which was independent of Rome. Justinian wanted to introduce profound changes to the ecclesiastical organization based on state law.

de Wet, “The Unbound God”

In June, Routledge will release The Unbound God: Slavery and the Formation of Early Christian Thought by Chris L. de Wet (University of South Africa). The publisher’s description follows:

The Unbound GodThis volume examines the prevalence, function, and socio-political effects of slavery discourse in the major theological formulations of the late third to early fifth centuries AD, arguably the most formative period of early Christian doctrine. The question the book poses is this: in what way did the Christian theologians of the third, fourth, and early fifth centuries appropriate the discourse of slavery in their theological formulations, and what could the effect of this appropriation have been for actual physical slaves? This fascinating study is crucial reading for anyone with an interest in early Christianity or Late Antiquity, and slavery more generally.

Marshall, “Heretics and Believers”

In June, Yale University Press will release Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation by Peter Marshall (University of Warwick). The publisher’s description follows:

Heretics and BelievesA sumptuously written people’s history and a major retelling and reinterpretation of the story of the English Reformation

Centuries on, what the Reformation was and what it accomplished remain deeply contentious. Peter Marshall’s sweeping new history—the first major overview for general readers in a generation—argues that sixteenth-century England was a society neither desperate for nor allergic to change, but one open to ideas of “reform” in various competing guises. King Henry VIII wanted an orderly, uniform Reformation, but his actions opened a Pandora’s Box from which pluralism and diversity flowed and rooted themselves in English life.

With sensitivity to individual experience as well as masterfully synthesizing historical and institutional developments, Marshall frames the perceptions and actions of people great and small, from monarchs and bishops to ordinary families and ecclesiastics, against a backdrop of profound change that altered the meanings of “religion” itself. This engaging history reveals what was really at stake in the overthrow of Catholic culture and the reshaping of the English Church.

Stopka, “Armenia Christiana”

In June, Columbia University Press will release Armenia Christiana: Armenian Religious Identity and the Churches of Constantinople and Rome (4th – 15th century) by Krzysztof Stopka (Jagiellonian University). The publisher’s description follows;

Armenia ChristianaThis book presents the dramatic and complex story of Armenia’s ecclesiastical relations with Byzantine and subsequently Roman Christendom in the Middle Ages. It is built on a broad foundation of sources – Armenian, Greek, Latin, and Syrian chronicles and documents, especially the abundant correspondence between the Holy See and the Armenian Church. Krzysztof Stopka examines problems straddling the disciplines of history and theology and pertinent to a critical, though not widely known, episode in the story of the struggle for Christian unity.

Teitler, “The Last Pagan Emperor”

In March, the Oxford University Press released “The Last Pagan Emperor: Julian the Apostate and the War against Christianity,” by H.C. Teitler.  The publisher’s description follows:

Flavius Claudius Julianus was the last pagan to sit on the Roman imperial throne (361-363). Born in Constantinople in 331 or 332, Julian was raised as a Christian, but 9780190626501.jpgapostatized, and during his short reign tried to revive paganism, which, after the conversion to Christianity of his uncle Constantine the Great early in the fourth century, began losing ground at an accelerating pace. Having become an orphan when he was still very young, Julian was taken care of by his cousin Constantius II, one of Constantine’s sons, who permitted him to study rhetoric and philosophy and even made him co-emperor in 355. But the relations between Julian and Constantius were strained from the beginning, and it was only Constantius’ sudden death in 361 which prevented an impending civil war.

As sole emperor, Julian restored the worship of the traditional gods. He opened pagan temples again, reintroduced animal sacrifices, and propagated paganism through both the spoken and the written word. In his treatise Against the Galilaeans he sharply criticised the religion of the followers of Jesus whom he disparagingly called ‘Galilaeans’. He put his words into action, and issued laws which were displeasing to Christians–the most notorious being his School Edict. This provoked the anger of the Christians, who reacted fiercely, and accused Julian of being a persecutor like his predecessors Nero, Decius, and Diocletian. Violent conflicts between pagans and Christians made themselves felt all over the empire. It is disputed whether or not Julian himself was behind such outbursts. Accusations against the Apostate continued to be uttered even after the emperor’s early death. In this book, the feasibility of such charges is examined.

“Great Christian Jurists in English History” (Helmholz & Hill, eds.)

In May, the Cambridge University Press will release “Great Christian Jurists in English History,” edited by Mark Hill (FTB Chambers) and R. H. Helmholz (University of Chicago).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Great Christian Jurists series comprises a library of national volumes of detailed biographies of leading jurists, judges and practitioners, assessing the impact of their 9781107190559Christian faith on the professional output of the individuals studied. Little has previously been written about the faith of the great judges who framed and developed the English common law over centuries, but this unique volume explores how their beliefs were reflected in their judicial functions. This comparative study, embracing ten centuries of English law, draws some remarkable conclusions as to how Christianity shaped the views of lawyers and judges. Adopting a long historical perspective, this volume also explores the lives of judges whose practice in or conception of law helped to shape the Church, its law or the articulation of its doctrine.

Belloc, “Characters of the Reformation”

In April, Ignatius Press will release a new paperback edition of Characters of the Reformation by Hilaire Belloc. The publisher’s description follows:

characters-of-the-reformationOne of the most fascinating books ever written by the great Catholic historian Belloc, he presents  in bold colors the 23 principal characters of the Protestant Reformation, focusing primarily on those figures concerned with the events in England, analyzing their strengths, mistakes, motives and deeds which changed the course of history.

Among the characters he examines are Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, St. Thomas More, Mary Tudor, Thomas Cromwell, William Cecil, Mary Stuart, Cardinal Richelieu and many more. Belloc illustrates how the motives of the Protestant leaders were rarely religious in nature, but usually political or economic. He underscores the fact that European Christendom was once a single united entity, under the authority of the Catholic Church, each country viewing itself as a single “province” of the whole.

Many of Europe’s Princes resented the power that the Bishop of Rome held in their own lands. The Reformation, aided by the rise of Nationalism, was a means for the nobles of Europe to shake off Papal authority and rule their territory independently. It also gave European monarchs control over the Church and all of its property in their realm, including the taxes that would normally be sent to Rome.

The nobles grew rich by confiscating the wealth of the Church, and resisted reconciliation if that meant returning the wealth to its rightful owner. In subsequent generations, the fear of this possibility gave the noble classes an incentive to remain in the Protestant camp. Belloc warns that this breakup of Christendom may still destroy our Christian civilization.

Even those who think they do not like history will be unable to put this book down as it brings history vividly to life. As usual, Belloc’s historical perspective offers timeless wisdom and insight rarely seen in modern times.

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