Wednesday, 16 September 2015

"Inferior Office?" by Francis Young

The Church of England has no theology of the diaconate. It has never been agreed exactly what liturgical functions a deacon is entitled to perform, and it is even more unclear what he - or she - is supposed to get up to outside church. This book is an attempt to fill in this theological and pastoral gap. It was written by Francis Young, an historian and writer with an established interest in anomalous and marginal religious phenomena.

"Forged" and "Forgery and Counterforgery" by Bart Ehrman

This is another couple of books by the leading American Bible scholar Bart Ehrman.  One of them (Forged) is a popular book for a general readership; the other (Forgery and Counterforgery) is a detailed academic monograph.  They deal with the delicate issue of pseudonymous and pseudepigraphical writings in early Christian literature - or, as Ehrman puts it less euphemistically, forgeries.  The only previous large study of this phenomenon was Wolfgang Speyer's 1971 masterpiece Die literarische Faelschung im heidnischen und christlichen Altertum, and it is good that Ehrman has turned his time and talents to dealing with this underresearched topic.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Three books by Bart Ehrman

  • Did Jesus Exist? (2012)
  • Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (1999)
  • How Jesus Became God (2014)
If I was going to recommend three books to newcomers to the field of historical Jesus studies, it would be these three.  Ehrman is an interesting guy.  He rejected the Christian fundamentalism of his youth to become a secular Bible scholar writing in the academic mainstream.  An engaging writer and teacher, he has perhaps done more than any other writer of our time to bring the insights of modern Bible research to a wider audience.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Three books on Shariah law

The first book that I want to cover in this post is Shariah: The Islamic Law by Abdur Rahman I. Doi.  This is a detailed textbook of the principles and rules of traditional Sunni Shariah.  Such textbooks seem to be rather unusual in the English language.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Pauline Christianity

Here are some characteristics of the churches which Paul founded and ministered to, as gleaned from his letters:

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Review of "Mormonism Unvailed" by E.B. Howe (edited by Dan Vogel)

E.B. Howe's Mormonism Unvailed (the spelling was normal for the time) was the first anti-Mormon book to be published after Joseph Smith's new religious movement appeared in 1830.  The work was published in Ohio in 1834.  This is a new edition of the book, which has been edited by Dan Vogel.  Vogel is a prominent secular scholar of Mormonism whose previous major work was his biography Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet.  Vogel has provided an introduction and detailed notes to the text.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Review of "The Rocky Mountain Saints" by T B H Stenhouse

This is an interesting piece of 19th century anti-Mormon literature.  Thomas Stenhouse (1825-1882) was a Mormon journalist who fell out with the church.  He published the book in 1873 as an exposé of what had gone on in early Utah, which he depicted as a repressive theocracy.