I have reviewed many books over the past few years.


Much like the book of Revelation, Joel L. Watts’ Praying in God’s Theater aims to pull readers into a deeper spirituality to confront the daily struggles of Christian life. Drawing from the rich well of Christian mystics and theologians from across the ecumenical experience, Watts uses the Apocalypse to build a series of prayers and devotions aimed at increasing what he identifies as the contemplative unity and the certain unity between the individual and Christ. He urges a radical vision of the prayer and the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Each chapter of Revelation is considered, explored, and finally used as a basis to draft prayers. Added to this is an application commentary that explores ancient liturgical practices similar to the scenes in Revelation while looking at Revelation in a mystical manner. Watts offers Revelation as an early liturgy, using this proposition as a catalyst for building prayers and a vision of life based on the Eucharist as the emblem of how we are to approach God. What emerges is a profound view on how we envision Scripture, prayer, and the book of Revelation.

Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013)

What if the story of Jesus was meant not just to be told but retold, molded, and shaped into something new, something present by the Evangelist to face each new crisis? The Evangelists were not recording a historical report, but writing to effect a change in their community. Mark was faced with the imminent destruction of his tiny community—a community leaderless without Paul and Peter and who witnessed the destruction of the Temple; now, another messianic figure was claiming the worship rightly due to Jesus. The author of the Gospel of Mark takes his stylus in hand and begins to rewrite the story of Jesus—to unwrite the present, rewrite the past, to change the future.

Joel L. Watts moves the Gospel of Mark to just after the destruction of the Temple, sets it within Roman educational models, and begins to read the ancient work afresh. Watts builds upon the historical criticisms of the past, but brings out a new way of reading the ancient stories of Jesus, and attempts to establish the literary sources of the Evangelist.

From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013)

There’s a stereotype of a young, zealous Christian who feels called to the ministry as a pastor, goes to seminary, and then loses his faith as he studies the writings of all those intellectuals and theologians. The stereotype may not be accurate, but there are those who fit this description, not to mention many who leave home for college as passionate Christians and come home unbelievers. More importantly, that stereotype represents a fear—the fear that too much education or contact with those whose beliefs differ from those of a particular community will cause someone to lose their faith.

But there’s another group, much larger, but not heard nearly as frequently. This group consists of people who have gone from the position of fear that creates the stereotype to a position of faith, a faith that is no longer afraid of that outer darkness that looms outside the walls of their religious community. Indeed, they may not perceive any looming darkness at all.

From Fear to Faith, edited by Travis Milam and Joel L. Watts, gives voice to that too often unheard group. It is a collection of essays from those who have lived in fear, have faced the looming dark, collided with their share of brick walls, but have come out with a new-found faith and undismayed trust.

The journeys of faith presented in this book reveal a group deeply insightful and grounded minds, rich in thriving spirituality, joy, and hope. Where there was once trepidation in asking the tough questions of human existence, of the divine relationship with creation, there is now a certain hope found when these authors have struggled to overcome canyons of fear, leaving behind a life of black and white certitude, to live in a beautiful world of gray.

They have learned that having questions and even doubts does not reflect a lack of faith. Rather, hiding in fear from the serious questions indicates a lack of faith in the one who said, “Don’t be afraid.”

Come join in this journey from fear to faith.

Order from the Publisher.

You can follow all posts on the journey to publication here.

Papers presented:

Society of Biblical Literature

  • From Blogging to Book (Online Publications Section, 2012 — Chicago)
  • Giving your Students to Molech’s Fire May Be Permitted (Co-Presented with Thomas S. Verenna; Online Publications Section, 2013 — Baltimore)
  • Working on a Building: Mark’s Correspondence to Daniel’s Structure (Markan Literary Sources, 2013 — Baltimore)

I am available to speak on a variety of topics!

12 Replies to “Scholia”

  1. Dear Mr. Watts
    As a first time author who believes in the little novel God nudged me to write, generally framed as a “Baseball Story with 2 Christians on the Team,” with funds nonexistent at this time, would you consider a traditional approach to Christian publishing houses or something more grassroots.

    Would you give three non-negotiables in seeking publishing houses or is there another blog that deals more with them?

    Are there some superstars out there who gave it a go on their own, self-published, who I should track alongside their efforts?

    How highly do you value taking an individualized specific approach in self-publishing, trying to innovative on your own, or are there even for self-publishing, certain tried and true concepts to not miss?

    Are there any books you’d recommend beside the Christian Writer’s Market for reaching publishing houses and self-publishing.

    Roger Elam

    1. Roger,

      First, what is your book about? Genre?

      If it is fiction, Tyndale puts out a book that is pretty good for Christian writers.

      Stay away from self-publishing.

      Look to smaller publishing houses, like Energion, to get your start.

  2. The healing miracle of John 9 is treated as a text in:
    Nohrnberg, James. “Justifying Narrative: Commentary in Biblical Storytelling,” in _Annotation and Its Texts_, ed. Stephen A. Barney, Publications of the University of California Humanities Research Institute (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 3-42 (cf. p. 186).

    See also the following poem:

    The Raising of Lazarus, 1975 / 1957

    (On a painting in “the Bayly,” the Museum of the Univ. of Virginia)

    You almost wonder what he smokes, and did he torch
    His draft-card, down at Krishna’s
    Kitchen, after lunch: this toga-party day-glo blonde,
    Billboard-big and bold in our chinashop museum, the
    Bull’s-eye Jesus and Lazarus his friend
    The missing Beatle; post-Clairol, organically grown, son of
    Hairless Joe the carpenter, and his pal, the car-crash dummy
    Who just broke through the department store’s main window —
    About the only package that ever fell off the truck;
    An armless Trova or a half-blanched Segal
    Not quite under wraps, and also slightly off
    His perpendicular. And well he might —
    Three days ago, he was checking out
    The local morgue. You wouldn’t want to try
    And sell him a Deep Freeze, but what a guest at parties —
    Almost Australian: “Yes, mate, from Down Under,
    Back from the dead…. It’s a trip.”

    Something’s gone a little wrong, if just because
    We’ve already been there, and even if
    He don’t really mean Australia: general
    Anaesthetic, media blitz, mass
    Hallucination, Don Juan the sorcerer, near-death
    Experience, plastic surgery, trick
    Photography, CAT-scan, instant
    Replay, laugh track, drug therapy, multiple
    Resonate holographic image,
    Quintuple coronary
    By-pass, electronically
    Re-simulated stereo
    Implant, every kind of ruse to get
    The organs and the faculties
    Off the natch, back on life-support,
    And put their several deaths on hold.

    Virtuality, it appears,
    Can always find a way to
    Turn it up another notch,
    Being robbed by technologies
    That make it all technique.

    Clones R Us and only innocence
    Can write a gospel. Here’s a man that could’t walk
    Come back from God, or the dead: by the bands
    His pallet’s lowered through the roof, and lo, he looketh up,
    And behold, the opening of his tomb: Mark Two.

    — Wisdom, less innocent by degrees, might brave it still,
    Pointing out the man born blind: he began to see
    He coudn’t see inside the very Synagogue
    He’d been circumciséd in, churched and salted
    —And she his mother. The Ninth of John.

    — Sensibilities and the senses
    Also have their gospel, claims upon
    Whatever art might save them from
    Their own captivity. The art itself indicts,
    “‘I am the resurrection, and the life’ — it is I,

    Who raiseth dead perception, I the German graver
    Study optic like a faithful scribe, and fix the quickened creature
    With the creature’s own, naked, sidelong eye: it is I
    Have made you see;

    I the storming rising Grecian
    Diva, frightened and excited, melt mutes from passages
    Egyptian balmers’ mud hath stopped: it is I
    Have let you hear;

    I the carver Florentine, disfigured, broken-hearted,
    Anatomize the slab and tablet, the flaw divine,
    Divide the mass, secure and poise it: it is I
    Have made thy fragile strong and whole again;

    I the Russian dancer, despite my splinted shins,
    And a partner’s crazed and numbing toes,
    Reach the dying swan in time: it is I
    That let you find, interiorly, thine own

    Endangered balance, and unto you I say,
    ‘Rise and walk, cast off your dark and pent,
    Your halt and dumb and weak: your crippling
    Is forgiven: disfiguration, stupor, bonds.’”

  3. Hi Joel –

    I am the former President of Paramount Pictures. I too liked the Bryan Singer Superman. I have enjoyed your blog and postings at HP. I am gay and I am a Christian. I have written an allegorical novella about a same sex love that is condoned by God. Neither the labels of gays nor God are mentioned (I figured those entities have suffered enough) LOL. The book’s pub street date is July 1. I would love it if GCN would do an editorial or a review. I am interested in changing people’s hearts through art, not increasing my own fan base. I pray this is a book that will speak to the “great middle” who is on the fence on the “great debate”☺ Either way, I admire your work and keep it up. It is great to see such a sharp intelligence at work in Biblical studies and culture!

    Here’s my blog site so you can check me out.
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    God bless!

  4. I appreciate your piece about moving from fundamentalism to a more open minded approach to faith, leaving the comfort of certitude and embracing tension in your belief system. I write about similar issues at my blog here: hopebeyondreason.com
    Have a great day.

  5. Hello Mr. Watts,

    I would like to send out an invitation to you to be interviewed on a podcast regarding your work. I am having difficulty finding an email contact on this website, so hopefully you can get back to me.

    Thank you,

    Ian G.

  6. Dear Mr. Watts,

    I work for Savas Beatie, an independent book publishing company. I came across your blog today and saw that you review books. As I could not find a contact email, I hope you don’t mind if I post this information here.

    I was wondering if you would like a review copy of this new book:

    Title: The Final Service
    Author: Gary W. Moore http://garywmoore.net/
    Synopsis: Inspired by real events, The Final Service offers a riveting story about human nature, emotional abandonment, and how unfulfilled dreams left a middle-aged woman on the brink of personal destruction until one event forever altered the core of her belief system and her life. Sandy cleaned away the remnants of her father’s tragic life, while God cleansed the bitterness in her heart. “Sandy’s sight was restored.” The Final Service is a story of redemption, renewal, relationships, and how God can use all seemingly tragic situations for His good purpose.

    John 9:1-3 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

    “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

    You can read more about The Final Service here: http://tinyurl.com/nz5aa4o. The book is currently being made into a major motion picture: http://tinyurl.com/jbu8kk9

    The book will be released in May, but I would be happy to mail or email you an advanced copy now. Please let me know if you have any questions.

    Kind regards,
    Sarah Keeney

  7. Interesting Joel. you have come a’ways since we first met on the blogs (years now)! I am now fully retired, but still do some chaplain work. And some guest pastoral preaching, but of course I am always a Judeo-Christian “theolog”. I will be 68 in October (Lord willing?).

    Blessings to you and yours,
    Fr. Robert (Anglican)

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