ACADEMIA

Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

de Prater. GOD HOVERED OVER THE WATERS, 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jan• 13•16

9781498204545De Prater, William A. God Hovered over the Waters: The Emergence of the Protestant Reformation. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2015.

This may appear to be yet another academic work on the Protestant Reformation. Though, that is true to a large extent, De Prater seems to have done a unique work presenting the history, impact and relevance of Protestant reformation for us today. The gap between the event and us (almost 500 years) is bridged by his simple and contemporary style.

He sets out with answering the question why study of Reformation is important for us today. Then moves on to the various social, religious, economic and political factors that both necessitated and felicitated Reformation in Europe. In chapter 3 he talks about the forerunners of Reformation. In the following chapters he takes up history of Reformation country by country. Portraits of reformers is a special treat.

No presentation of protestant reformation is complete without its antithesis in the Catholic reformation which he takes up in chapter 7. What is more important, having given a simple but detailed portrayal of Reformation is a discussion on its legacy for us today.

The book is further enriched by two appendices: One which lists the Reformed Confessions and the second one on the timeline of events in the Reformation period.

This book is certainly a primer for all those who would like to know more about Reformation and its legacy for us. It is a great tool to understand the ecumenical movement as well.

Harper. From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality…. (2013)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Aug• 27•13

Harper, Kyle. From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2013. Pages: 304. ISBN: 9780674072770.

Harper. From Shame to Sin

There are works that have studied the sexual morality of the Greco-Roman world. This book is different to the best of the reviewer’s knowledge, the only book that tells us how the sexual morality of the Roman empire was transformed by Christians and Christianity. It is also a good treatment on the development of the Christian theology of human sexuality and how it became the norm for the Western cultures.

The book is divided into four chapters: ‘1. The Moralities of Sex in the Roman Empire’, ‘2. The Will and the World in Early Christian Sexuality’, ‘3. Church, Society, and Sex in the Age of Triumph,’ ‘4. Revolutionizing Romance in the Late Classical World.’ In the concluding section the author sketches briefly the view on sex in the periods that follows.

The main argument is that Christianity transformed what was considered as just shameful act in the Roman world to be considered as sin. Sex thus has to do with righteousness, God’s order in the world, and individuals free will.

The book is based on meticulous research on the classical sources, especially classical literature both Christian and non-Christian. The book argues that the ‘Christianization of sexual morality’ began later than the second century contra to previously held by many scholars. It surveys the period from the second century to the period of emperor Justinian. Though many books have focussed on the same-sex eros, this is the one book that moves its focus from that theme to focus on prostitution or ‘porneia.’ The author also argues that the Christian ‘invention’ of the free will is the factor that decided the sexual morality of the ancient world by fourth-fifth century.

In chapter 1, the author portrays the sexual life in the Roman empire in the second century by analysing the classical literature of the period. This the author does by analysing the Greek romantic novel of the period structured around a heroine by the name Leucippe. The second chapter follows a similar methodology to see how early Christian thinkers were re-interpreting and critiquing the sexuality of the secular society following a Pauline line of thought. The source that is under scrutiny is the the work by Methodius titled ‘Christian Symposium’. The third chapter looks at how the Church after the conversion of Constantine attempts to control the sexual morality of not only of its adherents but also of non-adherents. This process thus leads to legalization of Christian sexual morality as the morality for the empire. In establishing this argument, the author takes us through the thought world of Saint Paul, John Chrysostom and the like. Chapter 4, ‘Revolutionizing Romance in the Late Classical World’ reviews some classical romances where the Christian values of sexuality and chastity are upheld. Through this the Christian ideas of human sexuality, especially virginity were trying to transform the culture of the ancient Roman world.

Here is a wonderful contribution to the study of the history of human sexuality. This diachronic treatment of human sexuality is well researched and a must-have title!

Engelbrecht. CHURCH FROM AGE TO AGE, (2011)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Feb• 02•13

Engelbrecht, Edward A (Ed.). The Church from Age to Age. A History. From Galilee to Global Christianity. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2011. Pages lviii, 976. ISBN: 9780758626462

Church from Age to Age

This book on the history of the Christian Church is a collection of contributions from a number of authors with an introduction by famous historian Paul L. Maier.

This spans the history of the Christian Church beginning with Jesus and Apostles to the modern era, practically to 2011! The book draws its contents from portions from the CHURCH HISTORY SERIES of the Concordia Publishing House. However, all these thoroughly revised in the light of the reviews of the individual books in the series published in various academic journals and brought up-to-date.

The authors are academics and history professors from the non-catholic traditions; so one gets a Protestant perspective of the history and more than that a treatment which focusses on the non-catholic mission and history. Going through the list of authors one is convinced that this is also an American perspective of history as practically all of them are located in the academies of North America.

One is impressed by comprehensiveness and the evident neutrality in the selection of the themes, persons and topics that are presented in the book. This doesn’t mean that the authors are neutral in their presentation (pure objectivity is a mirage!) but the editors have made sure that all that has happened and are significant for our understanding of the the Christian Church is included in this volume. So, we will find the Popes and Patriarchs as well as Pat Robertson and Paul Yongi Cho! It is so vast and comprehensive that it begins with pre-Christian origins in Galilee and so contemporary to include the Arab Spring!

It has a detailed 27 page time-line of the major events that shaped the Church and the world that the Church is called to witness. There are sixteen maps that reflect modern scholarship and cartography. The four appendices add further value to the volume: ‘Popes and Rival Popes’, ‘Major Councils’, ‘Bishops, Archbishops and Patriarchs of Constantinople’, and ‘Assemblies of the World Council of Churches’. A bibliography divided according to the various periods of Christian history is an added boon to students and teachers alike!

The size of the volume is intimidating (976 pages) but it is justified by what Paul L. Maier says in the ‘Foreword’: ‘… this is a large book because it has a huge story to tell.’ If there is any book recently published that I would recommend confidently on the history of Christianity it will be this: A comprehensive one-volume, text-book. My hope is that the publishers will come up with updates of this volume at least every five year.