Tag Archives: Oxford University Press

Book Notice, @OUPAcademic’s “The Murder of William of Norwich: The Origins of the Blood Libel in Medieval Europe”

Thanks to OUP for the review copy.

In 1144, the mutilated body of William of Norwich, a young apprentice leatherworker, was found abandoned outside the city’s walls. The boy bore disturbing signs of torture, and a story spread that it was a ritual murder, performed by Jews in imitation of the Crucifixion as a mockery of Christianity. The outline of William’s tale eventually gained currency far beyond Norwich, and the idea that Jews engaged in ritual murder became firmly rooted in the European imagination.

E.M. Rose’s engaging book delves into the story of William’s murder and the notorious trial that followed to uncover the origin of the ritual murder accusation – known as the “blood libel” – in western Europe in the Middle Ages. Focusing on the specific historical context – 12th-century ecclesiastical politics, the position of Jews in England, the Second Crusade, and the cult of saints – and suspensefully unraveling the facts of the case, Rose makes a powerful argument for why the Norwich Jews (and particularly one Jewish banker) were accused of killing the youth, and how the malevolent blood libel accusation managed to take hold. She also considers four “copycat” cases, in which Jews were similarly blamed for the death of young Christians, and traces the adaptations of the story over time.

Saint William of Norwich
Saint William of Norwich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the centuries after its appearance, the ritual murder accusation provoked instances of torture, death and expulsion of thousands of Jews and the extermination of hundreds of communities. Although no charge of ritual murder has withstood historical scrutiny, the concept of the blood libel is so emotionally charged and deeply rooted in cultural memory that it endures even today. Rose’s groundbreaking work, driven by fascinating characters, a gripping narrative, and impressive scholarship, provides clear answers as to why the blood libel emerged when it did and how it was able to gain such widespread acceptance, laying the foundations for enduring antisemitic myths that continue to the present.

Book Notice: @OUPAcademic’s “Shared Stories, Rival Tellings: Early Encounters of Jews, Christians, and Muslims”

Thanks to OUP for sending along the preview copy:

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are considered kindred religions-holding ancestral heritages and monotheistic belief in common-but there are definitive distinctions between these “Abrahamic” peoples. Shared Stories, Rival Tellings explores the early exchanges of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and argues that their interactions were dominated by debates over the meanings of certain stories sacred to all three communities.

Author Robert C. Gregg shows how Jewish, Christian, and Muslim interpreters — artists as well as authors — developed their unique and particular understandings of narratives present in the two Bibles and the Qur’an. Gregg focuses on five stories: Cain and Abel, Sarah and Hagar, Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, Jonah and the Whale, and Mary the Mother of Jesus. As he guides us through the often intentional variations introduced into these shared stories, Gregg exposes major issues under contention and the social-intellectual forces that contributed to spirited, and sometimes combative, exchanges between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Offering deeper insight into these historical moments and their implications for contemporary relations between the three religions, Shared Stories, Rival Tellings will inspire readers to consider — and reconsider — the dynamics of traditional and current social-religious competition.

You can see the Table of Contents on the Publisher‘s site.

in the mail: @OUPAcademic’s “”A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism”

Thanks to Oxford University Press for this free review copy

A New Gospel for Women tells the story of Katharine Bushnell (1855-1946), author of God’s Word to Women, one of the most innovative and comprehensive feminist theologies ever written. An internationally-known social reformer and women’s rights activist, Bushnell rose to prominence through her highly publicized campaigns against prostitution and the trafficking of women in America, in colonial India, and throughout East Asia. In each of these cases, the intrepid reformer struggled to come to terms with the fact that it was Christian men who were guilty of committing acts of appalling cruelty against women. Ultimately, Bushnell concluded that Christianity itself – or rather, the patriarchal distortion of true Christianity – must be to blame.

A work of history, biography, and historical theology, Kristin Kobes DuMez’s book provides a vivid account of Bushnell’s life. It maps a concise introduction to her fascinating theology, revealing, for example, Bushnell’s belief that gender bias tainted both the King James and the Revised Versions of the English Bible. As Du Mez demonstrates, Bushnell insisted that God created women to be strong and independent, that Adam, not Eve, bore responsibility for the Fall, and that it was through Christ, “the great emancipator of women,” that women would achieve spiritual and social redemption.

A New Gospel for Women restores Bushnell to her rightful place in history. It illuminates the dynamic and often thorny relationship between faith and feminism in modern America by mapping Bushnell’s story and her subsequent disappearance from the historical record. Most pointedly, the book reveals the challenges confronting Christian feminists today who wish to construct a sexual ethic that is both Christian and feminist, one rooted not in the Victorian era, but rather one suited to the modern world.

In the Mail from @OUPAcademic, “The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition”

From the official listing:

  • Informative essays that address a wide variety of topics relating to Judaism’s use and interpretation of the Bible throughout the ages
  • Section and book introductions that deliver insights into the background, structure, and meaning of the text
  • Running commentary beside the biblical text that provides in-depth theological interpretation
  • Features the Jewish Publication Society TANAKH translation
  • Full-color Oxford Bible maps
  • Verse and chapter differences between the Hebrew text and many English translations
  • Table of Scriptural readings for synagogue use
  • Glossary of technical terms

First published in 2004, The Jewish Study Bible is a landmark, one-volume resource tailored especially for the needs of students of the Hebrew Bible. It has won acclaim from readers in all religious traditions.

The Jewish Study Bible combines the entire Hebrew Bible–in the celebrated Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation–with explanatory notes, introductory materials, and essays by leading biblical scholars on virtually every aspect of the text, the world in which it was written, its interpretation, and its role in Jewish life. The quality of scholarship, easy-to-navigate format, and vibrant supplementary features bring the ancient text to life.

This second edition includes revised annotations for nearly the entire Bible, as well as forty new and updated essays on many of the issues in Jewish interpretation, Jewish worship in the biblical and post-biblical periods, and the influence of the Hebrew Bible in the ancient world.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition, is an essential resource for anyone interested in the Hebrew Bible.

More can be found here.

It is an increase of about 180 pages above the previous version.

By far, it is already an improvement upon something that was near perfect. More later.

Review: Christopher Bryan, The Resurrection of the Messiah

bryan resurrection of the messiah
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With a special thanks to John C. Poirier for this review:

Christopher Bryan, The Resurrection of the Messiah (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), reviewed by John C. Poirier.

Christopher Bryan’s The Resurrection of the Messiah is structured in three parts, not counting the extensive (= eight) “additional notes”. The first part (“The Setting”) presents background historical information pertaining to the doctrine of the resurrection – less thoroughly, of course, than some recent studies – but in proper proportion to the rest of the book. The second part (“Witnesses”) discusses the resurrection passages in the New Testament, devoting a separate chapter to Paul and to each of the gospels. This section borrows the format of a running commentary, and reads in a way very similar to some of the less detailed, narrativally focused commentaries (Harper’s, etc.). The effect of having five chapters deal with separate writings in this way is interesting – it’s almost as though someone took parts of five commentaries and put them together. This undoubtedly was an easier way for Bryan to deal with the topic, but it also presents the discussion in a way that serves well for future reference. The third part of the book (“Questioning the Witnesses”) provides a synthesis and theological commentary on the second part. The “Additional Notes” engage topics that might have been discussed in parts one and three.

The Resurrection of the Messiah has as one of its objects a measured response to various scholarly attempts to dismiss the resurrection, or to re-theologize it in potentially docetic ways. In the face of these challenges, Bryan does a good job of keeping the reader’s construal of the New Testament’s claims tied to the apostles’ presentation of the gospel. He could have said more along these lines – that is, he could have engaged a few more challenges on this front – but what he does he does well. One of the enjoyable aspects of this book is that its author knows when he has dealt sufficiently with a given point.

Although the book engages other scholars, it seems to be aimed at a somewhat beginning level of academic reader. It seldom breaks new ground. It does, however, present its arguments well, in a modest tone, and with a good sense of the reader’s needs. One could, of course, imagine a more rigorous engagement of many of this book’s points, but that seems not to be this book’s purpose. The style of the commentary section within this book establishes its limited range of engagement with the facts of historical context, philology, etc. The author’s goal, it seems, is never to let incidental details get in the way of a simple argument. The book’s theological burden, I believe, justifies this approach.

This is a good book for anyone considering the place of Jesus’ resurrection in NT theology.