Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 17•12

Helseth, Paul Kjoss, William Lane Craig, Ron Highfield, and Gregory A. Boyd. Four views on divine providence. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2011.

Four Views on Divine Providence has appeared in the ‘Counterpoints. Bible and Theology’ series of Zondervan edited by Stanley N. Gundry and Dennis W. Jowers. Four leading theologians of our day have contributed the four dominant views on Providence prevalent now.

Paul Kjoss Helseth has written on the view that ‘God is Causes all Things’ (Reformed tradition) and William Lane Craig on “God Directs all Things” (Molonism), Ron Highfield “God controls everything” (Resotorationist) and Gregory A. Boyd on “God Limits His Control” (Open Theism).

This is not just presentation of four views by four scholars but interact with each other. The view of one scholar is critiqued by the three others so that the readers get a fairly good view of the issues involved as the other titles in COUNTERPOINTS series try to do.

Dennis W. Jowers, General Editor has contributed the Introduction and the Conclusion. In the introduction he elaborates on the scriptural foundations for the doctrine of providence before he moves on to give us historical view on this doctrine. This is where the novice is introduced to the debates, disputes and all that happened in the past. He divides the historical presentation into six periods as: (1) The anti-Nicene period (AD 70-325), (2) Post-Nicene period  (AD 325-787), (3) The medieval period (AD 787-16th century), (4) Early modern period that is from Reformation to the seventeenth century, (5) The Enlightenment Period, (6) the Post Enlightenment period (from nineteenth century to the present.)

The volume ends with an essay by the General Editor (Dennis W. Jowers) where he summarizes the positions of the contributors. This is a very useful section as he brings out the areas of agreement and areas of disagreement between the four contributors.

The volume is where anyone who want a comprehensive view of this doctrine should begin. This is comprehensive, interactive and leaves the readers to make up their minds on the issue.


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 - Mar• 14•12

Wolf, Hubert. Pope and Devil : the Vatican’s archives and the Third Reich. (Cambridge  Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010) ISBN: 9780674050815.

Vatican’s dealings with the Third Reich has been a topic of speculation for decades. The mystery was getting thicker as Vatican kept the records leading to the events since 1939 a secret and hid it from historians and the public. Now almost seventy years later these archives are open to the public and scholars like Hubert Wolf (the author) has been able to research and come up with this book. Hubert Wolf is an accomplished Church Historian teaching at the University of Munster. This book clears a lot of clouds and we have answers to many questions answered for the first time in the light of these secret documents.
The book appeared in its German original in 2008 as Papst und Tuefel: Die Archive des Vatikan und das Dritte Reich published by Verlag C. H. Beck oHG, Munich.
In five chapters, along a chronological sequence, Wolf details Vatican’s relationships and struggles with the Third Reich and the National Socialism.
Chapter one: Neutralizing Evil. Vatican Prescriptions for Germany (1917-1929); Chapter Two: Perfidious Jews. The Battle in the Vatican over Anti-Semitism (1928); Chapter Three: The Pact with the Devil? The Reichskonkordat (1930-1933); Chapter Four: Molto Delicato? The Roman Curia and the Persecution of the Jews (1933-1939); Chapter Five: Dogma or Diplomacy? The Catholic Worldview and Nazi Ideology (1933-1939).
The book is complete with a ten page chronology of this period which is very useful even to those who are familiar with the dates and events of this period.

Heagle. Justice Rising (2010)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Mar• 15•11

Heagle, John H. Justice Rising. The Emerging Biblical Vision (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2010). ISBN: 978-1-57075-884-3

This book is the fruit of more than 42 years of experience of the author as a pastor, professor and campus minister. The book identifies fear and violence in response to it as the main issue that our times. The right way to respond to violence in our society  is not with vilonece but being transformed by a vision of justice that the Bible offers. Heagle offers us a  “critical, historical, and theological evolution of the meaning of biblical justice and peacemaking.”
He accepts the fact that there is violence in the Judaeo-Christian scriptures but there is also an emerging ethical consciousness which moves from retributive justice to restorative and transformative justice. This means that violence was a form of justice making for the primitive people but this does not mean that it should be so for our days.
The first few chapters prepares the ground as the author discusses the reasons for the presence of various forms of injustice in our modern consciousness and the wrong notions of jutice that prevail. He then sketches the evolution of this new biblical conscious beginning with the Sinai covenant, through the changing role of the Redeemer, the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah to the self-giving mission of Jesus Christ. This vision of emerging consciousness of justice sketched so vividly for us in this book is captured by its title, “Justice Rising. The Emerging Biblical Vision.”
The book moves on from this theoretical description of the evolution of this notion of justice to our contemporary world. Heagle challenges us to come to a change of heart and attitudes as we understand this unfolding vision of justice and peace making. This change in our thinking and our behaving has to take place at the level of our religious institutions as well.
In a world where fear of violence guides our daily life and this fear leading us to justify or use violence as a means of securing justice for ourselves and our communities, this book is an altar call to repent.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Mar• 15•11

Barstad, Hans M.  A Brief Guide to the Hebrew Bible  (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010). ISBN: 978-0-664-23325-9.

This is a student-friendly introduction to the Old Testament and can be rightly hailed as ‘excellent primer.’ It is translated from the Norwegian original, Det gamle testamente. En innforung  (second edition which appeared in 2003). The author has an novel approach. A brief and simple introduction treats topics a student of the Old Testament need to know before entering into a detailed study. This section deals with topics like, the cultural history of the Bible, the academic study of the Bible, the OT and the NT, a description of the ANE, its culture and languages, canonization, transmission of the Hebrew Bible, Qumran and Biblical exegesis. Instead of presenting book by book, he introduces the theological traditions of the Old Testament and classifies the Pentateuch and Former Prophets according to “authorial groups.” So we have the tetrateuch introduced as the Priestly History and the books from Deuteronomy to Kings as the Deuteronomistic History. This is followed by an introduction of the Chronicler’s works. Two chapters offers a survey of the prophetic literature and the poetic traditions. The books of Jonah, Ruth and Esther are considered as novellas in the last chapter. The Introductions to the Hebrew Bible have been bulky since they deal with individual books separately. These book-by-book treatment is at the cost of userfriendliness. However, Barstad’s Introduction is concise and introduces the students to the corpora of the literature than to individual books. This helps the students to have a grasp of the theologies and movements that shaped the Hebrew Bible. This certainly helps in their appreciation of the individual books and their themes later in their study.


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.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Feb• 15•11

Meynet, Roland. A New Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels (Miami, Florida: Convivium Press, 2010). ISBN: 9781934996119

This title is the English translation of the French Une nouvelle introduction aux evangiles synoptiques (2009).

This rhetorical critical study of the Synoptics is based on a notion that rhetoric is not just Greco-roman as the West understand but there is Hebrew Rhetoric which is very different from that of Greek and Roman. The New Testament follows this Hebrew Rhetoric and so this could be called Biblical Rhetoric which is akin to Akkadian, Ugaritic and other ancient texts. This Rhetoric is shared by not only Hebrew Bible or New Testament but also the Quran.

Meynet deviates from the traditional approach to the study of Synoptic Gospels where the pericopes are put in parallel columns but he insists that one should study the whole pericopes, the sequences and subsequences. He likens his approach to the study of three architectures of a building than comparing the stones of three similar buildings.

He applies this study to a number of selections from the Synoptics.

This is indeed a trail-blazer in Synoptic studies. The fact that the French original is made available in English within a year of its publication is remarkable. This means that the influence of this novel approach to the Synoptics will be farreaching in the scholarly community.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jan• 15•11

Heurtz, Christopher L. and Christine D. Pohl. Friendship at the Margins. Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2010). pages: 159. ISBN: 9780830834549.Resources for Reconciliation Series.

This book is another in the series on Resources for Reconciliation by the Duke University School and IVP. The authors have been involved in Christian mission in different parts of the world and with Word Made Flesh (WMF) in a number of developing countries for a considerable time. This book is based on their life-long experience and reflection.

The book challenges the traditional missional practices where the missionary enters a mission field to help those who are disadvantaged. In the conventional pattern there is not much partnership with the people at the receiving end and there is seldom any relationship as equals. The Western missionaries are always at a higher pedestal than the disadvantaged that they serve.

This book, through the real experiences of its authors and the model that WMF has adopted world-wide offers an alternative. It is a call to establish long-term relationships with those whom we serve. It challenges us to consider those whom we serve as friends and to learn from them as well. It emphasizes mutuallity in mission than the unidirectional flow of knowledge and skills as in conventional model of mission. This mutuality happens when the poor and the exploited becomes partners in their own liberation. Those who serve God in this way becomes friends with them and develop a new kind of spirituality. The book ends with a chapter titled “A Spirituality Fit for the Margins” where spiritual practices fit for friendships at the margins is discussed.

The book is full of anecdotal illustrations from the life and experience of the authors and their colleagues. This title is a must for those who consider engaging with the marginalized and the poor in their own country or abroad.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Aug• 15•09

Everist, Norma Cook, Ed. The Difficult but Indispensable Church. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002.

The church has always been difficult. There are dissensions, power struggles, blame games and we find it very difficult to be the church. Increasing individualism tend to make us believe that being together as church is not indispensable. This book percieves the church as a community centered in Christ and argues that such a community is real and indispensable for life.

The Church has always been difficult. There are dissensions, power struggles, blame and we find it very difficult to be the church. Increasing individualism tend to make us believe that being together as church is not indispensable. This book perceives the church as a community centered in Christ and argues that such a community is real and indispensable for life.

The book looks at the indispensability of the church from four angles dividing the book in to four parts titled, “Personhood in Community: Indispensability in Christ”, “The Church’s Heart: The Indispensable Power of Christ”, “The Church of God in Motion: The Indispensability of Mission” and “The Church of all People: The Indispensable Challenge”. All the twenty-one chapters of the book written by the Faculty of Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa.

The book is a very useful reading for all those who are struggling with the question if the church would survive beyond the 21st century. This will definitely challenge our notions of the nature and mission of the church.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Oct• 15•08

Yong, Amos. Hospitality and the Other. (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2008)

Our age is characterized by encounter of religions in a number of special ways. In the first chapter of this book (Between Terrorism and Hospitality. The Encounter of Religions in the Twenty-first Century) Amos Yong presents three scenarios rather chosen arbitrarily where inter-religious encounters take place. The first of these is Sri Lanka where the conflict between the Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils is going on for more than twenty-five years. Our age is characterized by encounter of religions in a number of special ways. In the first chapter of this book (Between Terrorism and Hospitality. The Encounter of Religions in the Twenty-first Century) Amos Yong presents three scenarios rather chosen arbitrarily where inter-religious encounters take place. The first of these is Sri Lanka where the conflict between the Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils is going on for more than twenty-five years. Secondly, the situation in Nigeria where Muslim and Christian faiths are at loggerheads. Finally, the United States the majority Christian population is forced to engage in a discourse on the role of their own faith and that of other competing faiths in the increasingly pluralistic scenario. Each of these case studies also describes responses by Christians in each of these situations. Yong concludes from these case studies that Christians need to “articulate a multifaceted theology of religions and theology of interreligious engagement that more adequately underwrite the broad range of practices required for a complex post-9/11 world of many faiths” (p. 37).

The chapter 2 (Performing Theology. The Interrelationship between Christian Beliefs and Practices) where the author discusses the theoretical interconnections between beliefs and practices provides the background for investigating the relationship between Christian theologies of religion and Christian interreligious practices. This survey has provided a pneumatological perspective on the performance of Christian theology in a religiously pluralistic world. He argues that beliefs and experiences, doctrines and practices, theologies and performances are interrelated. The pneumatological approach means that the Christians will adopt a variety of practices and would speak a variety of languages in line with the variety of the pluralistic audiences that they witness to. Simply put his approach is “many tongues equal many practices” which he tries to test in chapter 3 and 4.

In Chapter 3 (Performing Theology of Religions. Christian Practices and the Religions) Yong three approaches to pluralism: traditional exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralistic theologies of the religions and their corresponding practices are elaborated. In the course of this, significant scholars like John Hick, Raimon Panicker, Aloysius Pieris and the like are presented and discussed.
Yong goes on to develop a pneumatological theology of hospitality as an interreligious praxis in Chapter 4 (Performing Hospitality. Towards a Pneumatological Theology of Interreligious Engagement). He presents us a very exhaustive treatment of hospitality as practiced by Jesus, the early church and ancient Israel in order to show the centrality of this approach to the stranger in the Bible. This hospitality, Yong argues can be discerned in Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, which embraced the many ancient near eastern cultures. Christianity, which he chooses to call the “religion of the Melchizedek” (inferred from the Book of Hebrews) is one of hospitality. Melchizedek offered Abraham hospitality according to Genesis.

Drawing heavily on the recent writings on hospitality Yong argues that the best interreligious approach would be to be hosts and also to be guests in a multi-religious context. Accepting hospitality (being guests) and also offering hospitality (being hosts) is a pattern that Jesus, the Apostles and the early church practiced. That is the model that the author tends to present to us.
Yong’s proposal is certainly an eye-opener. In the wake of religious violence on a global scale and has become a daily reality in countries like India where it taken the form of persecution, these thoughts demands a fresh hearing.