Heller, “Jabotinsky’s Children”

From Princeton University Press, a new book on a lesser-known aspect of Jewish history, “right-wing Zionism” in pre-war Poland. The book, Jabotinsky’s Children: Polish Jews and the Rise of Right-Wing Zionism, is by McGill University professor Daniel Kupfert Heller. Here’s a description of the book from the Princeton website:

k11134By the late 1930s, as many as fifty thousand Polish Jews belonged to Betar, a youth movement known for its support of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of right-wing Zionism. Poland was not only home to Jabotinsky’s largest following. The country also served as an inspiration and incubator for the development of right-wing Zionist ideas. Jabotinsky’s Children draws on a wealth of rare archival material to uncover how the young people in Betar were instrumental in shaping right-wing Zionist attitudes about the roles that authoritarianism and military force could play in the quest to build and maintain a Jewish state.

Recovering the voices of ordinary Betar members through their letters, diaries, and autobiographies, Jabotinsky’s Children paints a vivid portrait of young Polish Jews and their turbulent lives on the eve of the Holocaust. Rather than define Jabotinsky as a firebrand fascist or steadfast democrat, the book instead reveals how he deliberately delivered multiple and contradictory messages to his young followers, leaving it to them to interpret him as they saw fit. Tracing Betar’s surprising relationship with interwar Poland’s authoritarian government, Jabotinsky’s Children overturns popular misconceptions about Polish-Jewish relations between the two world wars and captures the fervent efforts of Poland’s Jewish youth to determine, on their own terms, who they were, where they belonged, and what their future held in store.

Shedding critical light on a vital yet neglected chapter in the history of Zionism, Jabotinsky’s Children provides invaluable perspective on the origins of right-wing Zionist beliefs and their enduring allure in Israel today.

 

Bishop Suriel, “Habib Girgis”

The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt is today suffering one of the worst periods of persecution in its long history. Few in the West realize, though, that this period of trial follows a renaissance in Coptic identity and spirituality in the last century. A central figure in that renaissance was scholar Habib Girgis, leader of the Sunday School Movement, which relied on religious education as the foundation for a revived community. A new book from Bishop Suriel of the Coptic Church, Habib Girgis: Coptic Orthodox Educator and a Light in the Darkness, explores Girgis’s life and legacy. Here is the description from the publisher, the St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press:

GurgisPaperFINAL41__44909.1491341742.300.300This is the first comprehensive work published on the life of Habib Girgis. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Coptic Orthodox Church was in a state of deep vulnerability that tore at the very fabric of Coptic identity. In response, Girgis dedicated his life to advancing religious and theological education.

This book follows Girgis’ six-decade-long career as an educator, reformer, dean of a theological college, and pioneer of the Sunday School Movement in Egypt—including his publications and a cache of newly discovered texts from the Coptic Orthodox Archives in Cairo. It traces his agenda for educational reform in the Coptic Church from youth to old age, as well as his work among the villagers of Upper Egypt. It details his struggle to implement his vision of a Coptic identity forged through education, and in the face of a hostile milieu.

The pain and strength of Girgis are seen most clearly near the end of his career, when he said, “Despite efforts that sapped my health and crushed my strength, I did not surrender for one day to anyone who resisted or envied me…. Birds peck only at ripe fruits. I thank God Almighty that, through his grace, despair never penetrated my soul for even one day, but in fact I constantly smile at the resistances…. It is imperative that we do not fail in doing good, for we shall reap the harvest in due time, if we do not weary.”

Habib Girgis remains a pioneer of Coptic religious and theological education—a Copt whose vision and legacy continue to shape his community to this very day.

“Into All the World” (Nobbs & Harding, eds.)

Most legal scholarship on church-and-state focuses on the here and now. Occasionally, legal scholars focus on the history of church-state relations, but rarely further back than the post-Reformation settlement in the West. (Harold Berman was a notable exception). But the relationship between the Christian Church and the state goes back millennia. Here is a new book from Eerdmans which, among other topics, addresses the relationship between Christians and the Roman Empire in the apostolic and sub-apostolic eras, Into All the World: Emergent Christianity in Its Jewish and Greco-Roman Context, edited by Australian scholars Alanna Nobbs (Macquarie University) and Mark Harding (Australian College of Theology). The description from the publisher’s website follows:

9780802875150.jpgInto All the World—the third volume from editors Mark Harding and Alanna Nobbs on the content and social setting of the New Testament—brings together a team of eminent Australian scholars in ancient history, New Testament, and the early church to take the story of Christianity into the Jewish and Greco- Roman world of the first century.

In thirteen chapters, the contributors discuss all the post- Pauline New Testament writings, devoting attention to both their content and their context. They examine the impact of the growth of the church on both Jews and Gentiles, exploring issues such as the diaspora, minorities, the Book of Acts, and the Fourth Gospel. The book then proceeds to a discussion of the impact of Christianity on the Roman state, including consideration of the book of Revelation and the imperial cult. A final chapter investigates how the church was perceived by Clement of Rome at the end of the first century.

Sarah Ruden’s New Translation of Augustine’s Confessions

I’ve greatly enjoyed classicist Sarah Ruden’s work, ever since reading her Paul Among the People (2010), which situates St. Paul in the classical world and corrects the image of him as a repressed killjoy. Her 2012 translation of Apuleius’ The Golden Ass is readable and a lot of fun. So I very much look forward to her latest work, a new translation of Augustine’s Confessions. Here’s the description from the Penguin Random House website:

9780812996562One of the great works of Western literature, from perhaps the most important thinker of Christian antiquity, in a revolutionary new translation by one of today’s leading classicists

Sarah Ruden’s fresh, dynamic translation of Confessions brings us closer to Augustine’s intent than any previous version. It puts a glaring spotlight on the life of one individual to show how all lives have meaning that is universal and eternal.

In this intensely personal narrative, Augustine tells the story of his sinful youth and his conversion to Christianity. He describes his ascent from a humble farm in North Africa to a prestigious post in the Roman Imperial capital of Milan, his struggle against his own overpowering sexuality, his renunciation of secular ambition and marriage, and the recovery of the faith his mother had taught him during his earliest years. Augustine’s concerns are often strikingly contemporary, and the confessional mode he invented can be seen everywhere in writing today.

Grounded in her command of Latin as it was written and spoken in the ancient world, Sarah Ruden’s translation is a bold departure from its predecessors—and the most historically accurate translation ever. Stylistically beautiful, with no concessions made to suit later theology and ritual, Ruden’s rendition will give readers a startling and illuminating new perspective on one of the central texts of Christianity.

Littlejohn, “The Peril and Promise of Christian Liberty”

If you want to understand the classical liberal approach to church and state, you will find yourself returning repeatedly to John Locke. And, in Locke, you’ll come across references to the Anglican thinker Richard Hooker. Learning more about Hooker and his approach to natural law is thus a very good idea. A new book from Eerdmans, The Peril and Promise of Christian Liberty: Richard Hooker, the Puritans, and Protestant Political Theology, by W. Bradford Littlejohn, seems a promising place to start. Here’s the publisher’s description:

9780802872562How do Christians determine when to obey God even if that means disobeying human authorities? In this book W. Bradford Littlejohn addresses that question, with particular attention to the magisterial political-theological work of Richard Hooker, a leading figure in the sixteenth-century English Reformation.

Littlejohn shows how Martin Luther and other Reformers considered Christian liberty to be compatible with considerable civil authority over the church, but he also analyzes the ambiguities and tensions of that relationship and how it helped provoke the Puritan movement. The heart of the book examines how, according to Richard Hooker, certain forms of Puritan legalism posed a greater threat to Christian liberty than did meddling monarchs. In expounding Hooker’s remarkable attempt to offer a balanced synthesis of liberty and authority in church, state, and conscience, Littlejohn draws out pertinent implications for Christian liberty and politics today.

Kaufman, “Augustine’s Leaders”

Lord, make me political, but not just yet: A new study, Augustine’s Leaders, by Peter Iver Kaufman (University of Richmond), argues that Saint Augustine was ultimately skeptical that Christianity had much to offer practical politics, especially contemporary liberal politics. Here’s a description of the book, from the Wipf and Stock website:

CASCADE_TemplateIn Augustine’s Leaders, Peter Iver Kaufman works from the premise that appropriations of Augustine endorsing contemporary liberal efforts to mix piety and politics are mistaken–that Augustine was skeptical about the prospects for involving Christianity in meaningful political change. His skepticism raises several questions for historians. What roles did one of the most influential Christian theologians set for religious and political leaders? What expectations did he have for emperors, statesmen, bishops, and pastors? What obstacles did he presume they would face? And what pastoral, polemical, and political challenges shaped Augustine’s expectations–and frustrations? Augustine’s Leaders answers those questions and underscores the leadership its subject provided as he continued to commend humility and compassion in religious and political cultures that seemed to him to reward, above all, celebrity and self-interest.

Birge, “Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan”

In June, the Harvard University Press will release “Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan: Cases from the Yuan dianzhang,” by Bettine Birge (University of Southern California).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Mongol conquest of China in the thirteenth century and Khubilai Khan’s founding of the Yuan dynasty brought together under one government people of 9780674975514-lgdifferent languages, religions, and social customs. Chinese law evolved rapidly to accommodate these changes, as reflected in the great compendium Yuan dianzhang (Statutes and Precedents of the Yuan Dynasty). The records of legal cases contained in this seminal text, Bettine Birge shows, paint a portrait of medieval Chinese family life—and the conflicts that arose from it—that is unmatched by any other historical source.

Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan reveals the complex, sometimes contradictory inner workings of the Mongol-Yuan legal system, seen through the prism of marriage disputes in chapter eighteen of the Yuan dianzhang, which has never before been translated into another language. The text includes court testimony—recorded in the vivid vernacular of people from all social classes—in lawsuits over adultery, divorce, rape, wife-selling, marriages of runaway slaves, and other conflicts. It brings us closer than any other source to the actual Mongolian speech of Khubilai and the great khans who succeeded him as they struggled to reconcile very different Mongol, Muslim, and Chinese legal traditions and confront the challenges of ruling a diverse polyethnic empire.

Lindkvist, “Religious Freedom and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”

In June, Cambridge University Press will release “Religious Freedom and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” by Linde Lindkvist (Uppsala Universitet).  The publisher’s description follows:

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) is widely considered to be the most influential statement on religious freedom in human history. Religious 9781107159419Freedom and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides a groundbreaking account of its origins and developments, examining the background, key players, and outcomes of Article 18, and setting it within the broader discourse around international religious freedom in the 1940s. Taking issue with standard accounts that see the text of the Universal Declaration as humanity’s joint response to the atrocities of World War II, it shows instead how central features of Article 18 were intimately connected to the political projects and visions of particular actors involved in the start-up of the UN Human Rights program. This will be essential reading for anyone grappling with the historical and contemporary meaning of human rights and religious freedom.

Howard, “The Pope and the Professor”

In May, Oxford University Press will release The Pope and the Professor: Pius IX, Ignaz von Dollinger, and the Quandary of the Modern Age by Thomas Albert Howard (Valparaiso University). The publisher’s description follows:

Pope and the ProfessorThe Pope and the Professor tells the captivating story of the German Catholic theologian and historian Ignaz von Dollinger (1799-1890), who fiercely opposed the teaching of Papal Infallibility at the time of the First Vatican Council (1869-70), convened by Pope Pius IX (r. 1846-1878), among the most controversial popes in the history of the papacy. Dollinger’s thought, his opposition to the Council, his high-profile excommunication in 1871, and the international sensation that this action caused offer a fascinating window into the intellectual and religious history of the nineteenth century. Thomas Albert Howard examines Dollinger’s post-conciliar activities, including pioneering work in ecumenism and inspiring the”Old Catholic” movement in Central Europe. Set against the backdrop of Italian and German national unification, and the rise of anticlericalism and ultramontanism after the French Revolution, The Pope and the Professor is at once an endeavor of historical and theological inquiry. It provides nuanced historical contextualization of the events, topics, and personalities, while also raising abiding questions about the often fraught relationship between individual conscience and scholarly credentials, on the one hand, and church authority and tradition, on the other.

Gurock, “The Holocaust Averted”

This month, Rutgers University Press released the paperback edition of The Holocaust Averted: An Alternate History of American Jewry, 1938-1967 by Jeffrey S. Gurock (Yeshiva University). The publisher’s description follows:

The Holocaust AvertedThe increasingly popular genre of “alternative histories” has captivated audiences by asking questions like “what if the South had won the Civil War?” Such speculation can be instructive, heighten our interest in a topic, and shed light on accepted history. In The Holocaust Averted, Jeffrey Gurock imagines what might have happened to the Jewish community in the United States if the Holocaust had never occurred and forces readers to contemplate how the road to acceptance and empowerment for today’s American Jews could have been harder than it actually was.

 

Based on reasonable alternatives grounded in what is known of the time, places, and participants, Gurock presents a concise narrative of his imagined war-time saga and the events that followed Hitler’s military failures. While German Jews did suffer under Nazism, the millions of Jews in Eastern Europe survived and were able to maintain their communities. Since few people were concerned with the safety of European Jews, Zionism never became popular in the United States and social antisemitism kept Jews on the margins of society. By the late 1960s, American Jewish communities were far from vibrant.

This alternate history—where, among many scenarios, Hitler is assassinated, Japan does not bomb Pearl Harbor, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt is succeeded after two terms by Robert A. Taft—does cause us to review and better appreciate history. As Gurock tells his tale, he concludes every chapter with a short section that describes what actually happened and, thus, further educates the reader.

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