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The Latin Church at the Turn of the First Millennium
Historians typically single out the hundred-year period from about 1050 to 1150 as the pivotal moment in the history of the Latin Church, for it was then that the Gregorian Reform movement established the ecclesiastical structure that would ensure Rome's dominance throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. In Before the Gregorian Reform John Howe challenges this familiar narrative by examining earlier, "pre-Gregorian" reform efforts within the Church. He finds that they were more extensive and widespread than previously thought and that they actually established a foundation for the subsequent Gregorian Reform movement.
The low point in the history of Christendom came in the late ninth and early tenth centuries—a period when much of Europe was overwhelmed by barbarian raids and widespread civil disorder, which left the Church in a state of disarray. As Howe shows, however, the destruction gave rise to creativity. Aristocrats and churchmen rebuilt churches and constructed new ones, competing against each other so that church building, like castle building, acquired its own momentum. Patrons strove to improve ecclesiastical furnishings, liturgy, and spirituality. Schools were constructed to staff the new churches. Moreover, Howe shows that these reform efforts paralleled broader economic, social, and cultural trends in Western Europe including the revival of long-distance trade, the rise of technology, and the emergence of feudal lordship. The result was that by the mid-eleventh century a wealthy, unified, better-organized, better-educated, more spiritually sensitive Latin Church was assuming a leading place in the broader Christian world.
Before the Gregorian Reform challenges us to rethink the history of the Church and its place in the broader narrative of European history. Compellingly written and generously illustrated, it is a book for all medievalists as well as general readers interested in the Middle Ages and Church history.
The Sacred Book of Japan's Hidden Christians
In 1865 a French priest was visited by a small group of Japanese at his newly built church in Nagasaki. They were descendants of Japan's first Christians, the survivors of brutal religious persecution under the Tokugawa government. The Kakure Kirishitan, or "hidden Christians," had practiced their religion in secret for several hundred years. Sometime after their visit the priest received a copy of the Kakure bible, the Tenchi Hajimari no Koto, "Beginning of Heaven and Earth," an intriguing amalgam of Bible stories, Japanese fables, and Roman Catholic doctrine. Whelan offers a complete translation of this unique work accompanied by an illuminating commentary that provides the first theory of origin and evolution of the Tenchi. Today, the few Kakure Kirishitan communities still in existence view the Tenchi as strange and flawed, expressing a distorted form of Christianity. It is, however, the only text produced by the Kakure Kirishitan that depicts their highly syncretistic tradition and provides a colorful window through which to examine the dynamics of religious acculturation.
An Essay on William Langland’s Piers Plowman and the End of Constantinian Christianity
In Beyond Reformation? An Essay on William Langland’s Piers Plowman and the End of Constantinian Christianity, David Aers presents a sustained and profound close reading of the final version of William Langland’s Piers Plowman, the most searching Christian poem of the Middle Ages in English. His reading, most unusually, seeks to explore the relations of Langland's poem to both medieval and early modern reformations together with the ending of Constantinian Christianity. Aers concentrates on Langland’s extraordinarily rich ecclesiastic politics and on his account of Christian virtues and the struggles of Conscience to discern how to go on in his often baffling culture. The poem’s complex allegory engages with most institutions and forms of life. In doing so, it explores moral languages and their relations to current practices and social tendencies. Langland’s vision conveys a strange sense that in his historical moment some moral concepts were being transformed and some traditions the author cherished were becoming unintelligible. Beyond Reformation? seeks to show how Langland grasped subtle shifts that were difficult to discern in the fourteenth century but were to become forces with a powerful future in shaping Western Christianity. The essay form that Aers has chosen for his book contributes to the effectiveness of the argument he develops in tandem with the structure of Langland’s poem: he sustains and tests his argument in a series of steps or “passus,” a Langlandian mode of proceeding. His essay unfolds an argument about medieval and early modern forms of Constantinian Christianity and reformation, and the way in which Langland's own vision of a secularizing, de-Christianizing late medieval church draws him toward the idea of a church of “fools,” beyond papacy, priesthood, hierarchy, and institutions. For Aers, Langland opens up serious diachronic issues concerning Christianity and culture. His essay includes a brief summary of the poem and modern translations alongside the original medieval English. It will challenge specialists on Langland's poem and supply valuable resources of thought for anyone who continues to struggle with the church of today.
Women’s Rhetorical Roles in the Antebellum Religious Press
In the formative years of the Methodist Church in the United States, women played significant roles as proselytizers, organizers, lay ministers, and majority members. Although women's participation helped the church to become the nation's largest denomination by the mid-nineteenth century, their official roles diminished during that time. In Beyond the Pulpit, Lisa Shaver examines Methodist periodicals as a rhetorical space to which women turned to find, and make, self-meaning. In 1818, Methodist Magazine first published "memoirs" that eulogized women as powerful witnesses for their faith on their deathbeds. As Shaver observes, it was only in death that a woman could achieve the status of minister. Another Methodist publication, the Christian Advocate, was America's largest circulated weekly by the mid-1830s. It featured the "Ladies' Department," a column that reinforced the canon of women as dutiful wives, mothers, and household managers. Here, the church also affirmed women in the important rhetorical and evangelical role of domestic preacher. Outside the "Ladies Department," women increasingly appeared in "little narratives" in which they were portrayed as models of piety and charity, benefactors, organizers, Sunday school administrators and teachers, missionaries, and ministers' assistants. These texts cast women into nondomestic roles that were institutionally sanctioned and widely disseminated. By 1841, the Ladies' Repository and Gatherings of the West was engaging women in discussions of religion, politics, education, science, and a variety of intellectual debates. As Shaver posits, by providing a forum for women writers and readers, the church gave them an official rhetorical space and the license to define their own roles and spheres of influence. As such, the periodicals of the Methodist church became an important public venue in which women's voices were heard and their identities explored.
Religion and Identity in Guatemala
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the essential theological writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer have been drawn together in a helpful one-volume format. The Bonhoeffer Reader brings the best English translation to students, and provides a ready-made introduction to the thought of this essential thinker.
Drawn from decades of classroom teaching experience, the readings selected ensure that this volume provides everything necessary to introduce Bonhoeffer’s thought to the student of theology.
Every reading has been skillfully introduced and placed in the larger context of Bonhoeffer’s life and work by two respected Bonhoeffer scholars, Clifford J. Green and Michael DeJonge. Footnotes and textual apparatus have been carefully edited with the theology student in mind. The readings have been selected by a renowned group of teachers, scholars, and Bonhoeffer experts. Newly written introductions frame each reading in a concise, helpful way. This book is an essential resource for all those who study the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
While many of us are familiar with such famous words as, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here. . ." or "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," we may not know that they originated with The Book of Common Prayer, which first appeared in 1549. Like the words of the King James Bible and Shakespeare, the language of this prayer book has saturated English culture and letters. Here Alan Jacobs tells its story. Jacobs shows how The Book of Common Prayer--from its beginnings as a means of social and political control in the England of Henry VIII to its worldwide presence today--became a venerable work whose cadences express the heart of religious life for many.
The book's chief maker, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, created it as the authoritative manual of Christian worship throughout England. But as Jacobs recounts, the book has had a variable and dramatic career in the complicated history of English church politics, and has been the focus of celebrations, protests, and even jail terms. As time passed, new forms of the book were made to suit the many English-speaking nations: first in Scotland, then in the new United States, and eventually wherever the British Empire extended its arm. Over time, Cranmer's book was adapted for different preferences and purposes. Jacobs vividly demonstrates how one book became many--and how it has shaped the devotional lives of men and women across the globe.
Spirit and Service in the Lutheran Confessions
The Reformation-era writings that make up the Lutheran Confessions remain lively resources for Christian ministry and mission today. Because each of the documents within the Book of Concord was written with a specific context and rhetorical purpose in mind, each has its own compelling story and objectives. Luther’s catechisms present the faith for daily life at the grass-roots level, with teaching elements that we might now view as typical of social media and multimedia. The Augsburg Confession and its Apology provide an adaptable foundation for preaching, teaching, church organization, and dialogue that is rooted in the promise of Christ, received through faith. Fifteen years after the Diet of Worms, the Smalcald Articles reveal yet another “Here I stand” moment for Luther. Finally, the Formula of Concord shows how the next generations of Lutherans used collaboration and consensus as they wrestled with important themes of faith and life. In summary, as these texts engage us with their stories, they invite us to consider what is most important about our journeys of faith and Christian witness in today’s twenty-first-century contexts.
The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity
The historical separation between Judaism and Christianity is often figured as a clearly defined break of a single entity into two separate religions. Following this model, there would have been one religion known as Judaism before the birth of Christ, which then took on a hybrid identity. Even before its subsequent division, certain beliefs and practices of this composite would have been identifiable as Christian or Jewish.In Border Lines, however, Daniel Boyarin makes a striking case for a very different way of thinking about the historical development that is the partition of Judaeo-Christianity.
There were no characteristics or features that could be described as uniquely Jewish or Christian in late antiquity, Boyarin argues. Rather, Jesus-following Jews and Jews who did not follow Jesus lived on a cultural map in which beliefs, such as that in a second divine being, and practices, such as keeping kosher or maintaining the Sabbath, were widely and variably distributed. The ultimate distinctions between Judaism and Christianity were imposed from above by "border-makers," heresiologists anxious to construct a discrete identity for Christianity. By defining some beliefs and practices as Christian and others as Jewish or heretical, they moved ideas, behaviors, and people to one side or another of an artificial border—and, Boyarin significantly contends, invented the very notion of religion.