Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Valeri. “The Opening of the Protestant Mind” OUP, 2023

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Nov• 19•23

Valeri, Mark R. The Opening of the Protestant Mind: How Anglo-American Protestants Embraced Religious Liberty. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press, 2023. Pages: xiii+292. ISBN: 9780197663677

If you are interested in the history of religious pluralism and tolerance, you might want to check out this book: “The Opening of the Protestant Mind.” It traces how Protestants in England and America gradually changed their attitudes and practices toward other Christian denominations and non-Christian religions from the 17th to the 18th century.

The book argues that political, economic, and cultural factors, such as the Restoration of the monarchy, the rise of Whig liberalism, the expansion of overseas trade, and the emergence of evangelicalism drove this change. The author shows how these factors influenced Protestants to rethink their views on conversion, evangelisation, and moral liberty, and to adopt a more tolerant and respectful approach to religious diversity.

The book covers a wide range of topics, such as the debates over religious toleration, the Enlightenment moral philosophy, the missionary activities among Native Americans and Muslims, and the impact of religious pluralism on the formation of the state and secularism. The book also challenges some of the existing interpretations of Protestant history and offers a fresh perspective on the origins and development of religious pluralism in the modern world.

This book is well-written, well-researched, and well-argued. It is not a dry academic tome, but a lively and engaging narrative that will appeal to both scholars and general readers. It is a valuable contribution to the fields of religious history, intellectual history, and political history. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the history of Protestantism and its interactions with other religions.

Tupamahu (2023), Contesting Languages: Heteroglossia and the Politics of Language in the Early Church, OUP. Pages: x+255. ISBN: 978-0-19-7581-12-4.

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 30•23

Tupamahu, Ekaputra. Contesting Languages: Heteroglossia and the Politics of Language in the Early Church. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2023.

In his book Contesting Languages: Heteroglossia and the Politics of Language in the Early Church, Ekaputra Tupamahu investigates the role of language in the early Christian community in Corinth. Tupamahu argues that the city of Corinth was a multilingual city, and that this multilingualism had a significant impact on the way that the Corinthians understood and practiced their faith.

Tupamahu begins by challenging the traditional interpretation of speaking in tongues as an ecstatic, unintelligible phenomenon. He argues that this interpretation is an invention of German romantic-nationalist scholarship, and that it is not supported by the text of 1 Corinthians. Instead, Tupamahu draws on Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of language to argue that speaking in tongues is a heteroglossic phenomenon, meaning that it is a way of speaking that incorporates multiple languages and voices.

Tupamahu then goes on to argue that the Corinthians’ use of tongues was a site of political struggle. He argues that the centripetal force of monolingualism, which attempts to force heterogeneous languages into a singular linguistic form, was at work in the early church. This force was used by the dominant group to control and subordinate minoritized languages. However, Tupamahu argues that the Corinthians’ use of tongues unleashed a centrifugal force that challenged the dominant group’s control over language.

Tupamahu’s book offers a new perspective on the role of language in the early church. He argues that the Corinthians’ use of tongues was a way of resisting the dominant group’s control over language. This resistance opened a space for the Corinthians to imagine a new socio-linguistic vision, one that was marked by unending difference.

Tupamahu’s book is a valuable contribution to the study of language and religion. It provides a new perspective on the role of language in the early church, and it challenges the traditional interpretation of speaking in tongues. Tupamahu’s book is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of language, religion, and power.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Oct• 11•16

9780190249588Olyan, Saul M., ed. Ritual Violence in the Hebrew Bible: New Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pages: 190. ISBN: 978-0-19-0249588.

This volume, an anthology of eight essays (besides the introduction) is a timely contribution to the discussion about violence in the Bible. In the recent years, there has been a lot of attention on violence of all forms in the academia and the public media. A lot of discussion on the topic have focussed on the violence in the religious texts including the Hebrew Bible. However, most of the books on the subject circumvent one of the most important aspects of violence—the ritual aspect of it. This volume fills this lacuna by offering a detailed discussion of ritual violence in the Hebrew Bible.

Debra Soggins Ballentine (‘What Ends Might Ritual Violence Accomplish? The Case of Rechab and Baanah in 2 Samuel 4’) argues that ritual violence is a coded strategic version of normal acts of violence. The way David handled the violent act of Rechab and Baanah by burying Eshbaal’s head and mutilating the body of the villains had political goals as well.

T.M. Lemos (‘Dispossesing Nations. Population Growth, Scarcity, and Genocide in Ancient Israel and Twentieth-Century Rwanda’) is multi-disciplinary in its approach. He uses the case studies of violence in Rwanda and also that is described in Mesha inscription to understand violence in the Bible. The author concludes that the main reason for ritualized forms of violence in the Hebrew Bible is material scarcity. Population explosions and scarcity of land lead to violence of genocidal proportions. He also buttresses his argument by archaeological evidence. However, he doesn’t seem to suggest that it was material scarcity alone that lead to genocide in the Bible, a confluence of material, social, psychological aspects also contribute.

The third essay by Mark Leuchter (‘Between Politics and Mythology. Josiah’s Assault on Bethel in 2 Kings 23:15-20’) concludes that this act of Josiah is a more mythological re-enactment than being purely historical. However, this ethno-mythology was politicized.

The fourth essay in this volume, Nathaniel B. Lectow (‘Cognitive Perspectives on Iconoclasm’), is also interdisciplinary in nature. Levtow uses insights from cognitive science particularly, the modal theory of Harvey Whitehouse. He concludes that ‘iconism and iconoclasm are natural, durable, and inseparable forms of human thought and action.’

Exchange of women has been a practice in war times. Susan Nidtich in her essay, “‘The Traffic in Women” The Exchange, Ritual Sacrifice, and War’ studies three sets of texts that deal with violence on women. She studies (1) texts that deal with rape (Genesis 34 and Judges 19), (2) texts that deal with stealing of women in Deuteronomy 21, Numbers 31 and Judges 11 and (3) the case of Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11. She concludes that exchange of women is an integral component of social relationships between men.

The editor of the volume who has made considerable contribution in the area of ritual violence discusses ‘The Instrumental Dimensions of Ritual Violence against Corpses in Biblical Texts.’ Olyan’s focus is on the biblical narrative that talks about the mutilation of dead bodies (particularly severing the head) of foreign or domestic enemies or of offenders. Decapitation served as means of humiliation and also as a threat to the survivors who may plan a rebellion. Decapitation as in the case of Eshbaal by Baanah and Rechab may be a sign of changed loyalties.

Rudiger Schmitt (‘Establishing Communitas. Royal Rites of Military Loyalty and Their Socio-Religious Function’ deals with war-related ritual acts that involve violence. The main purpose of such violence is to avoid intragroup violence. Legitimization of the ruler and formation of a communitas was also the purpose of these acts.

The last essay is devoted to the destruction of cities as part of violence related to war. In Jacob L. Wright (‘Urbicide. The Ritualized Killing of Cities in the Ancient Near East’, the author surveys the ancient textual, epigraphic and iconic evidence from AWA and Egypt to study the concept of urbicide (killing/destruction of cities). He concludes that urbicide is punitive action but it is also genocide. The urbicide also had a larger purpose of killing people’s cultural memories. The aggressors not only wiped out the people but also any memory that they cherished by destroying symbols of their culture and religion.

Discussions on religious violence are usually limited to either justifying it or disowning it. However, works that elaborate on the nature, motivations and goals of ritual violence is rare. This volume is a significant contribution in this direction.

Bauman. Pentecostals, Proselytization… OUP 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Apr• 12•16

9780190202095Bauman, Chad. Pentecostals, Proselytization, and Anti-Christian Violence in Contemporary India. 1 edition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-19-020210-1. Pages: ix+208

Bauman starts with the observation that the Pentecostals and Evangelical Pentecostals (or “Pentecostalized Evangelicals”) are disproportionately targeted by the Hindutva forces. Out of the 223 reported incidents of attacks on Indian Christians in 2007, the media mentioned the names of the denominations in 147 cases. Out of the 147 cases, Bauman found out that only 9% were attacks against Catholics, 4% against were other non-Catholic denominations. The Pentecostals and Pentecostal Evangelicals were the victims in the remaining cases (87%).
Bauman in his research tries to answer this question “Why?” Bauman presents his case in five chapters. In chapter 1 he takes up the question of who are India’s Pentecostals—their history and definitions. In chapter 2 he places Pentecostalism in India in the context of India’s politics and history. In chapter 3, he talks about the disproportionate attacks. In chapter 4 he turns to the debates about conversion in India. Chapter 5 is titled “Missions and Pentecostalization of Indian Christianity.”
He does agree with the most common observation that the particular beliefs, practices and the evangelistic zeal of the Pentecostals are the main reason for them being the targets of anti-Christian attacks. But he is not satisfied with this popular notion. His thorough study has led him to conclude that the anti-Pentecostal attitude of mainline Christians and also the caste dynamics are also part of the story. The marginalization of Pentecostals by mainstream Christian denominations make them more vulnerable to attacks than other Christian groups.
This is indeed a quite an authoritative study. Bauman has covered a considerable amount of literature written on the history of Indian Christianity, debates on conversion and the issue of caste. On the top of these, he has done remarkable in-depth field research that involved extensive travel in India.



Silverstein. ABRAHAMIC RELIGIONS. 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Mar• 24•16

9780199697762Silverstein, Adam J., Guy G. Stroumsa, and Moshe Blidstein, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Abrahamic Religions. Oxford, United Kingdom?; New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Like other ‘Oxford Handbooks’ (see, Lim, Oxford Handbook of Dead Sea Scrolls) this also is a collection of essays. Here in this volume, we have 32 essays on the various aspects of the so-called Abrahamic religions namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The essays are grouped into six parts including epilogues. “Abrahamic Religions” is an emerging field of study.
The first part deals with the very concept of Abrahamic religions. Six essays in this section probe the concept of “Abrahamic Religions” by trying to define and test it out. In the second part, we have studies on the various aspect of the communities that belong to the Abrahamic religions. The third section deals with the scripture and interpretation of the religious texts of the Abrahamic religions. The fourth section is devoted to the theological aspects while the fifth deals with the rituals and ethics. Finally, the sixth part has three epilogues on the three religions that make up Abrahamic religions.
The volume is unique in that each essay is a comparative study of the various aspects of the three religions. This certainly is as the editors declare is a contribution to “the emergence and development of the comparative study of the Abrahamic religions.”

Wilkinson. BETWEEN GOD AND GREEN (2012)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Nov• 09•12

Wilkinson, Katharine K. Between God and green?: How Evangelicals are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. pages: xviii+234. ISBN: 978-0-19-9895885.

In popular perception of outsiders, Evangelical movement is unconcerned about social issues and environmental care. However, this book busts that myth! Wilkinson has not only established that the evangelicals are in the thick of creation care and related issues but also suggests that they are the crucial factor in the movement at least in North America. She suggests that their role is very important for the climate and environmentaWilkinson. BETWEEN GOD AND GREENl issue of our world. Without their continuing engagement, the world could be a lot more hotter and unlivable than now!

In this book, Wilkinson charts the history of evangelical engagement with environmental issues beginning with the history of the movement itself. It also documents the present state of the movement. The author is however, an outsider but who moved with the evangelicals for the purpose of her research only. So, by all means this is not hagiography by a devoted evangelical but considerably objective.

The appendix where we find the nine crucial documents that has to do with evangelical environmental care adds to its value.These documents are:

1. ‘On the Care of Creation. An Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation’ (1994)

2. ‘Oxford Declaration on Global Warming’ (2002)

3. ‘Sandy Cove Covenant and Invitation’ (2004)

4. An Excerpt from ‘For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility’ (2004)

5. ‘Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action’ (2006)

6. ‘An Urgent Call to Action: Scientists and Evangelicals Unite to Protect Creation’ (2007)

7. ‘Principles for Federal Policy on Climate Change’ (2007)

8. ‘A Southern Baptist Policy on Climate Change’ (2007)

9. ‘Vineyard Churches: Seven-Year Plan for American Evangelicalism’ (2009)

In addition, a four-page long list of names and affiliations of the key players of the evangelical movement in various aspects of creation care are given. This will help the students to trace their works and widen the horizon of their study on the topic.

This certainly is the best documentation ever published on the evangelical climate care.


Bornstein. Social Entrepreneurship (2010)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 19•12

Bornstein, David, and Susan Davis. Social entrepreneurship. What everyone needs to know. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. pages: 147. ISBN: 9780195396331.
This book falls into three parts: “Defining Social Entrepreneurship”, “Challenges of causing change” and “Envisioning an innovative society.”
In the first part the authors try to define Social Entrepreneurship by providing us a historical sketch of the movement. The emergence of the movement, the pioneers and what it tries to achieve are presented here. We also get a clear picture of this by way of comparing and contrasting it with business entrepreneurship and activism. In this section the authors also explain its relationship to democracy.
In the second part, the various challenges that the social entrepreneurs have to face are discussed. The challenges fall into two major areas. The first is finding the capital and the second is finding talented workers. The authors discuss how to overcome these hurdles financial and human resource hurdles.
In the third part, the authors have their suggestions about how educational institutions can nurture social innovators. It also discusses  how governments can engage with the social entrepreneurs. The symbiosis between business and social entrepreneurship is another crucial topic discussed here. The social entrepreneurship can also influence journalism.
This is simple but all in one book on social entrepreneurship. Everything one need to know about social entrepreneurship and how to get involved is presented in a nutshell.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 14•12

Lim, Timothy H., and John J. Collins. The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Oxford University Press, USA, 2010.

This compendium of essays by noted scholars brings to us the most up-to-date scholarly works on various aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls. A panel of thirty experts drawn from all over the world has written on almost all possible topics in this area, divided in to eight parts: (1) Archaeology of Khirbet Qumran and the Judaean Wilderness, (2) The Scrolls and Jewish History, (3) Scrolls and Sectarianism, (4) The Biblical Texts, Interpretation, and Languages of the Scrolls, (5) Religious Themes in the Scrolls, (6) The Scrolls and Early Christianity, (7) The Scrolls and Later Judaism and (8) New Approaches to the Scrolls.

Most of the essays take stock of the previous scholarship before they take their deviation to new directions on the topic. This feature of this book helps even novices too have a diachronic view of each area or topic. In instances where the past scholarship is not detailed, allusions and useful bibliography help to complete the picture. Those who are coming back to the field after a break will find these essays filling the gaps and taking them to the growing edges of the field.

This is the most useful one-volume scholarly work on the Dead Scrolls hitherto available and will be valued by students and teachers in the discipline greatly. Its value as a textbook for course on the Dead Sea Scrolls invaluable!


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Feb• 15•11

Cavanaugh, William T. The Myth of Religious Violence. Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). ISBN: 9780195385045.

The idea that religion by its very nature promotes violence is deeply rooted in modern consciousness due to a western propoganda to underwrite its own violence. In this book Cavanaugh argues that thinking in mutually exclusive terms like “religious” and “secular” or “religious” and “political” is a are western inventions. This has helped to create a religious “other” whose violence is seen as fanatical and the western violence to counter it as an attempt to peace-making. He argues that secular ideologies are as prone to violence as religious ideologies are.

The book is arranged in four chapters (besides Introduction) as (1). The Anatomy of the Myth (2). The Invention of Religion (3). The Creation Myth of the Wars of Religion (4). The Uses of the Myth.

William T. Cavanaugh is Professor in the Department of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.