Matthew Hale on the Law of Nature (Postema, ed.)

9780199234929It is impossible really to understand the American church-state arrangement without knowing something about the English Civil War, which loomed so large in the Framers’ imagination. Yesterday, I posted a new treatment of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Today, I’ll point out another new work on seventeenth century England, an edition of Matthew Hale’s writings, edited by University of North Carolina professor Gerald Postema: Matthew Hale: On the Law of Nature, Reason, and the Common Law: Selected Jurisprudential Writings (Oxford). Here’s a description of the book from the publisher’s website:

Lawyer, judge, public figure, historian, theologian, and amateur natural philosopher, Sir Matthew Hale worked and wrote in the middle decades of the seventeenth century, perhaps the most turbulent period of English political history. His reflections on reason, law, and political authority, unpublished in his lifetime, are collected in this volume. It sets Hale’s previously unpublished Treatise on the Nature of Laws in General and touching the Law of Nature and his “Reflections on Mr Hobbes his Dialogue of the Laws” in context of other key works of legal and constitutional theory. The Treatise reveals a complex general understanding of law and of moral and legal reasoning. “Reflections” brings these general considerations to bear on English law, in his critical response to Hobbes’s all-out attack on common-law jurisprudence. “Reflections” suggests a conception of judicial reasoning, and a view of political authority, that deepens the view Hale defends in the longer and more systematic work. His views on practical reasoning are elaborated and related explicitly to the discipline of law in his “Preface to Rolle’s Abridgement” and in parts of his History of the Common Law. In the Treatise, Hale argues that human law is necessarily instituted in the practices and customs of specific communities, manifesting their consent; this view is enriched and deepened in the History and “Considerations touching Amendment of the Law”. His views on the foundations of political authority, sounded in the Treatise, are argued at length in Prerogatives of the King and “Reflections”. “Reflections” argues for necessary legal limits of ruling power and Prerogatives offers a systematic discussion of the nature and limits of political authority. Taken together, these writings offer a rich and subtle articulation of a classical common-law understanding of law, reason and authority. Gerald J. Postema presents these seminal writings in a modernized text for readers from philosophy, law, political theory, or intellectual history. He contributes an extended introduction setting out the theoretical and historical context of the works.

Poole, “Milton and the Making of Paradise Lost”

9780674971073-lgBesides being one of the greatest poets in the English language, John Milton was a major public figure, an official in the Commonwealth government and a political writer whose works addressed many church-state issues, including divorce laws (he favored their liberalization) and religious toleration (he favored that. too). A new book from Harvard University Press, Milton and the Making of Paradise Lost, by Oxford scholar William Poole, touches on Milton’s political and religious writings as well as, obviously, his greatest poem. Here’s the description from the Harvard website:

Milton and the Making of Paradise Lost tells the story of John Milton’s life as England’s self-elected national poet and explains how the single greatest poem of the English language came to be written.

In early 1642 Milton—an obscure private schoolmaster—promised English readers a work of literature so great that “they should not willingly let it die.” Twenty-five years later, toward the end of 1667, the work he had pledged appeared in print: the epic poem Paradise Lost. In the interim, however, the poet had gone totally blind and had also become a controversial public figure—a man who had argued for the abolition of bishops, freedom of the press, the right to divorce, and the prerogative of a nation to depose and put to death an unsatisfactory ruler. These views had rendered him an outcast.

William Poole devotes particular attention to Milton’s personal situation: his reading and education, his ambitions and anxieties, and the way he presented himself to the world. Although always a poet first, Milton was also a theologian and civil servant, vocations that informed the composition of his masterpiece. At the emotional center of this narrative is the astounding fact that Milton lost his sight in 1652. How did a blind man compose this staggeringly complex, intensely visual work? Poole opens up the epic worlds and sweeping vistas of Milton’s masterpiece to modern readers, first by exploring Milton’s life and intellectual preoccupations and then by explaining the poem itself—its structure, content, and meaning.

Harline, “A World Ablaze”

9780190275181Here is another in the flood of books commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this year, A World Ablaze: The Rise of Martin Luther and the Birth of the Reformation (Oxford), by BYU history professor Craig Harline. Looks interesting. Here’s a description from the publisher’s website:

October 2017 marks five hundred years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg and launched the Protestant Reformation. At least, that’s what the legend says. But with a figure like Martin Luther, who looms so large in the historical imagination, it’s hard to separate the legend from the life, or even sometimes to separate assorted legends from each other. Over the centuries, Luther the man has given way to Luther the icon, a polished bronze figure on a pedestal.

In A World Ablaze, Craig Harline introduces us to the flesh-and-blood Martin Luther. Harline tells the riveting story of the first crucial years of the accidental crusade that would make Luther a legendary figure. He didn’t start out that way; Luther was a sometimes-cranky friar and professor who worried endlessly about the fate of his eternal soul. He sought answers in the Bible and the Church fathers, and what he found distressed him even more — the way many in the Church had come to understand salvation was profoundly wrong, thought Luther, putting millions of souls, not least his own, at risk of damnation. His ideas would pit him against numerous scholars, priests, bishops, princes, and the Pope, even as others adopted or adapted his cause, ultimately dividing the Church against itself. A World Ablaze is a tale not just of religious debate but of political intrigue, of shifting alliances and daring escapes, with Luther often narrowly avoiding capture, which might have led to execution. The conflict would eventually encompass the whole of Christendom and served as the crucible in which a new world was forged.

The Luther we find in these pages is not a statue to be admired but a complex figure — brilliant and volatile, fretful and self-righteous, curious and stubborn. Harline brings out the immediacy, uncertainty, and drama of his story, giving readers a sense of what it felt like in the moment, when the ending was still very much in doubt. The result is a masterful recreation of a momentous turning point in the history of the world.

Jones, “The Templars”

9780525428305Why waste your time reading tripe like The DaVinci Code when real history is so much more interesting? Here, from Penguin Random House, is a new history of the Knights Templar, The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors, by historian Dan Jones. The Templars were a Catholic lay order that fought in the Crusades and, incidentally, established an early global financial network. Eventually they ran afoul of the French monarchy, which pressured the papacy to dissolve them–see, there’s even a church-state angle. Here is the description from the publisher’s website:

An instant international bestseller, this major new history of the knights Templar by the bestselling author of The Plantagenets is “another triumphant tale from a historian who writes as addictively as any page-turning novelist.” –The Guardian

Jerusalem 1119. A small group of knights seeking a purpose in the violent aftermath of the First Crusade decides to set up a new order. These are the first Knights of Templar, a band of elite warriors prepared to give their lives to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Over the next two hundred years, the Templars would become the most powerful religious order of the medieval world. Their legend has inspired fervent speculation ever since. But who were they really and what actually happened?

In this groundbreaking narrative history, the bestselling author of The Plantagenets tells the true story of the Templars for the first time in a generation, drawing on extensive original sources to build a gripping account of these Christian holy warriors whose heroism and depravity have so often been shrouded in myth. The Templars were protected by the pope and sworn to strict vows of celibacy. They fought the forces of Islam in hand-to-hand combat on the sun-baked hills where Jesus lived and died, finding their nemesis in Saladin, who vowed to drive all Christians from the lands of Islam. They were experts at channeling money across borders. They established the medieval world’s first global bank and waged private wars against anyone who threatened their interests.

Then in 1307 the Templars fell foul of a vindictive King of France, whose lawyers built a meticulous case against them. On Friday October 13, hundreds of brothers were arrested, imprisoned and tortured, and the order was disbanded amid lurid accusations of sexual misconduct and heresy. They were tried by the Pope in secret proceedings and publicly humiliated. But were they heretics or victims of a ruthlessly repressive state? Dan Jones goes back to the sources tobring their dramatic tale, so relevant to our own times, in a book that is at once authoritative and compulsively readable.

 

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.

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