Thursday, 4 February 2016

"The Invention of God" by Thomas Roemer

This book, by Thomas Roemer of the Collège de France, seeks to trace the evolution of "the god Yhwh, a desert war god who became the one unique God of the monotheistic religions".

Saturday, 26 December 2015

"The Holocaust and Halakhah" by Rabbi Irving Rosenbaum

This is a strange and haunting book - a testimony to the efforts of orthodox Jews to live in accordance with Jewish law (halakhah) under circumstances of Nazi persecution.  It consists in large part of responsa, or rabbinical opinions on what Jews were to do in order to keep in the way of the Torah.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Reflections on the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)

For most Jews and Christians, the Bible is an artefact.  It is revered rather than read.  Even in the secular world, politicians and commentators occasionally claim that our country was built on the Bible or on Biblical values - but this is a claim that needs to be unpacked quite a bit.  The truth is that the Bible is at once a much more foreign and a much more interesting book than most people realise.

Two ultramontanist Catholic texts

  • Louis Cardinal Billot SJ, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, 3rd edition, 1909-10
  • John S. Daly, Michael Davies: An Evaluation, 2nd edition, 2015

The first text that I want to look at in this post is the Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi (Treatise on the Church of Christ) by Cardinal Louis Billot (1846-1931).  Billot was a star theologian in his time, but he is largely forgotten today.  His undoing was dabbling in far-right French politics.  He gave his support to Action Française, an essentially secular movement which supported the restoration of absolute monarchy; and he was forced out of the College of Cardinals by Pope Pius XI as a result.  In his treatise, he quotes Charles Maurras, the ideological leader of Action Française, despite Maurras being a religious sceptic with a particular dislike of Christian doctrine.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

"The City of the Saints" by Sir R.F. Burton

Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) was a renowned explorer and writer.  This book contains, amongst other things, an account of a journey which he made to the early Mormon colony at Great Salt Lake City.  This review should be read together with my earlier review of The Rocky Mountain Saints by T.B.H. Stenhouse (whom Burton met on his trip).

Friday, 16 October 2015

Apollonius and the Pythagoreans - Part II

First published on my classics blog, Memento, on 15 March 2015.

From around the first century BC, the Pythagorean movement underwent a reinaissance.  Pythagoras came to be seem as a kind of semi-divine figure - a master of teaching and doctrine who had given the other great Greek philosophers their ideas.  Writers forged entire treatises in the name of Pythagoras and his early followers in order to tell the world what they really ought to have said.  In the hands of the New Pythagoreans, Pythagoras and his legacy came to take on the appearance of a storehouse of wisdom on subjects ranging across metaphysics, magic, music, mathematics and morality.

Apollonius and the Pythagoreans - Part I

First published on my classics blog, Memento, on 26 February 2015.

In the next couple of posts, I want to look at the mysterious figure of Apollonius of Tyana, a Pythagorean holy man who flourished in the 1st century AD.