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Publication Date: Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2020. xii, 539 p.
Reviewed: NYRB 23 Sept. 2021 p. 54. Description: Accusations that Jews ritually killed Christian children emerged in the mid-twelfth century, following the death of twelve-year-old William of Norwich, England, in 1144. Later, continental Europeans added a destructive twist: Jews murdered Christian children to use their blood. While charges that Jews poisoned wells and desecrated the communion host waned over the years, the blood libel survived. Initially blood libel stories were confined to monastic chronicles and local lore. But the development of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century expanded the audience and crystallized the vocabulary, images, and “facts” of the blood libel, providing a lasting template for hate. Tales of Jews killing Christians-notably Simon of Trent, a toddler whose body was found under a Jewish house in 1475-were widely disseminated using the new technology. Following the paper trail across Europe, from England to Italy to Poland, Magda Teter shows how the blood libel was internalized and how Jews and Christians dealt with the repercussions. The pattern established in early modern Europe still plays out today. In 2014 the Anti-Defamation League appealed to Facebook to take down a page titled “Jewish Ritual Murder.” The following year white supremacists gathered in England to honor Little Hugh of Lincoln as a sacrificial victim of the Jews.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships--or, as they would say, because of them--they are two of the most joyful people on the planet. In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama's home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness's eightieth birthday and to create what they hoped would be a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: How do we find joy in the face of life's inevitable suffering? They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our time and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy. This book offers us a rare opportunity to experience their astonishing and unprecendented week together, from the first embrace to the final good-bye. We get to listen as they explore the Nature of True Joy and confront each of the Obstacles of Joy--from fear, stress, and anger to grief, illness, and death. They then offer us the Eight Pillars of Joy, which provide the foundation for lasting happiness. Throughout, they include stories, wisdom, and science. Finally, they share their daily Joy Practices that anchor their own emotional and spiritual lives. The Archbishop has never claimed sainthood, and the Dalai Lama considers himself a simple monk. In this unique collaboration, they offer us the reflection of real lives filled with pain and turmoil in the midst of which they have been able to discover a level of peace, of courage, and of joy to which we can all aspire in our own lives.
Publication Date: Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Pr./Baker Pub. Co., 2021. x, 245 p.
Reviewed: PW 25 Jan 2021 p. 66. Description: Biblical womanhood–the belief that God designed women to be submissive wives, virtuous mothers, and joyful homemakers–pervades North American Christianity. From choices about careers to roles in local churches to relationship dynamics, this belief shapes the everyday lives of evangelical women. Yet biblical womanhood isn’t biblical, says Baylor University historian Beth Allison Barr. It arose from a series of clearly definable historical moments. This book moves the conversation about biblical womanhood beyond Greek grammar and into the realm of church history–ancient, medieval, and modern–to show that this belief is not divinely ordained but a product of human civilization that continues to creep into the church. Barr’s historical insights provide context for contemporary teachings about women’s roles in the church and help move the conversation forward. Interweaving her story as a Baptist pastor’s wife, Barr sheds light on the #ChurchToo movement and abuse scandals in Southern Baptist circles and the broader evangelical world, helping readers understand why biblical womanhood is more about human power structures than the message of Christ.
Many people remain unaware of how the New Testament was written and transmitted. This course is designed to introduce the writings of the New Testament-the most widely read, studied, debated, disputed, maligned, and believed book in the history of Western civilization. These lectures explain what light purely historical research can shed on the New Testament: its form the methods of its composition its authors and their audiences the larger historical context. While mindful of limitations imposed by the available historical evidence and methods, it brings expertise to bear on the task of reconstructing the life of Jesus and the early Christian community.
This course provides a detailed investigation of the Old Testament, the Scripture that emerged from the Hebrew people and still forms the foundation of the Jewish faith today, as well as underlying the Christian and Islamic traditions. These lectures introduce you to the history, religion, and literature of ancient Israel as preserved in the Old Testament or Tanakh. The influence of ancient Israel's religious and national literature is evident in everything from medieval mystery plays to modern novels, art, music, theater, film, and dance. Professor Amy-Jill Levine brings biblical characters and passages to life and vividly reveals the magnificent artistry that suffuses the Old Testament.
Publication Date: New York: W. W. Norton, 2021. xxi, 237 p.
Reviewed: NYT/BR 7 Nov. 2021 p. 12. Description: Reflecting on subjects as far-flung as the international veneration of Anne Frank, the blockbuster travelling exhibition called “Auschwitz,” the Jewish history of the Chinese city of Harbin, and the little known “righteous-gentile” Varian Fry, Dara Horn challenges us to confront the reasons why there might be so much fascination with Jewish deaths, as emblematic of the worst of evils the world has to offer, and so little respect for Jewish lives, as they continue to unfold in the present. Horn draws upon her own family life–trying to explain Shakespeare’s Shylock to a curious 10-year-old, her anger when swastikas are drawn on desks in her children's school in New Jersey, the profound and essential perspective offered by traditional religious practice, prayer, and study–to assert the vitality, complexity and depth of this life against an anti-Semitism that, far from being disarmed by the mantra of “Never forget,” is on the rise.
The enormous rise in popularity in recent decades of the Camino, the ancient pilgrim path that stretches from France, across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela, is part of a wider phenomenon being witnessed on other time-honoured pilgrim routes around the globe and across the faiths. But this is happening in a world that in many places is self-avowedly ever more sceptical, secular and scientific, with formal religious affiliation in steep decline.
Publication Date: Oakland: U. California Pr., 2022. xiv, 179 p.
Description: How does religious violence end? This book probes for answers through case studies and personal interviews with militants associated with the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, the Sikh Khalistan movement in India’s Punjab, and the Moro movement for a Muslim Mindanao in the Philippines. Mark Juergensmeyer is arguably the globe’s leading expert on religious violence, and for decades his books have helped us understand the worlds and worldviews of those who take up arms in the name of their faith. But even the most violent of movements, consumed by grand religious visions of holy warfare, eventually come to an end. In order to understand what led to these drastic changes in the attitudes of men and women once devoted to all-out ideological war, Juergensmeyer takes readers on an intimate journey into the minds of religiously motivated militants. Readers will travel with Juergensmeyer to the affected regions, examine compelling stories of devotion and reflection, and meet with people related to the movements and impacted by them to understand how their worldviews can, and do, change. Building on the author’s lifetime of fieldwork interviewing religious combatants around the world, When God Stops Fighting reveals how the transformation of religious violence appears to those who once promoted it as the only answer.
Publication Date: Chapel Hill: U. North Carolina Pr., 2021. 164 p.
Reviewed: PW 18 Jan. 2021 p. 33; PW 14 Dec. 2020 p. 21. Description: The American political scene today is poisonously divided, and the vast majority of white evangelicals play a strikingly unified, powerful role in the disunion. These evangelicals raise a starkly consequential question for electoral politics: Why do they claim morality while supporting politicians who act immorally by most Christian measures? In this clear-eyed, hard-hitting chronicle of American religion and politics, Univ. of Pennsylvania religious studies Professor Anthea Butler answers that racism is at the core of conservative evangelical activism and power. Butler reveals how evangelical racism, propelled by the benefits of whiteness, has since the nation’s founding played a provocative role in severely fracturing the electorate. During the buildup to the Civil War, white evangelicals used scripture to defend slavery and nurture the Confederacy. During Reconstruction, they used it to deny the vote to newly emancipated blacks. In the twentieth century, they sided with segregationists in avidly opposing movements for racial equality and civil rights. Most recently, evangelicals supported the Tea Party, a Muslim ban, and border policies allowing family separation. White evangelicals today, cloaked in a vision of Christian patriarchy and nationhood, form a staunch voting bloc in support of white leadership.
Publication Date: New York: HarperOne, 2020. xvii, 494 p.
Reviewed: PW 3 Aug. 2020 p. 54. Description: The editors of The Jewish Annotated New Testament show how and why Jews and Christians read many of the same Biblical texts–including passages from the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Psalms–differently. Esteemed Bible scholars and teachers Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Z. Brettler take readers on a guided tour of the most popular Hebrew Bible passages quoted in the New Testament to show what the texts meant in their original contexts and then how Jews and Christians, over time, understood those same texts. Passages include the creation of the world, the role of Adam and Eve, the Suffering Servant of Isiah, the book of Jonah, and Psalm 22, whose words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” Jesus quotes as he dies on the cross. Comparing various interpretations–historical, literary, and theological–of each ancient text, Levine and Brettler offer deeper understandings of the original narratives and their many afterlives. They show how the text speaks to different generations under changed circumstances, and so illuminate the Bible’s ongoing significance. (publ.)
Publication Date: Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 2019. xiv, 197 p.
Reviewed: PW 5 Aug. 2019 p. 63. Description: Fred Rogers fiercely believed that all people deserve love. This conviction wasn’t simply sentimental: it came directly from his Christian faith. God, he insisted, loves us just the way we are. Tuttle looks at Rogers's life, the people and places that made him who he was, and his work through Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. She pays particular attention to his faith, because Fred Rogers was a deeply spiritual person, ordained by his church with a one-of-a-kind charge: to minister to children and families through television. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 6 July 2020 p. 27. Description: In a 2018 national poll, over ninety percent of respondents reported that treating people equally is an essential American value. Almost eighty percent said accepting people of different racial backgrounds is very important. Yet about half of the general public reported that they doubt whether Muslims can truly dedicate themselves to American values and society. Why do many people who say they believe in equality and acceptance of those of different backgrounds also think that Muslims could be an exception to that rule? Caleb Iyer Elfenbein examines Islamophobia in the United States, positing that rather than simply being an outcome of the 9/11 attacks, anti-Muslim activity grows out of a fear of difference that has always characterized US public life. Elfenbein examines the effects of this fear on American Muslims, as well as describing how it works to shape and distort American society. In the face of public fear and hate, American Muslim communities have sought to develop connections with non-Muslims through unprecedented levels of community transparency, outreach, and public engagement efforts. Despite the hostile environment that has made these efforts necessary, American Muslims have faced down their own fears to offer a model for building communities and creating more welcoming conditions of public life for everyone. Arguing that anti-Muslim activity tells us as much about the state of core American values in general as it does about the particular experiences of American Muslims, this compelling look at Muslims in America offers practical ideas about how we can create a more welcoming public life for all in our everyday lives. (publ.)
In this critical biography, David Neumann tells the story of Yogananda's fascinating life while interpreting his position in religious history, transnational modernity, and American culture. Beginning with Yogananda's spiritual investigations in his native India, Neumann tells how this early "global guru" emigrated to the United States in 1920 and established his headquarters, the Self-Realization Fellowship, in Los Angeles, where it continues today. Preaching his message of Hindu yogic philosophy in a land that routinely sent its own evangelists to India, Yogananda was fueled by a religious nationalism that led him to conclude that Hinduism could uniquely fill a spiritual void in America and Europe.
Publication Date: Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP/InterVarsity Pr., 2019. 172 p.
Reviewed: LJ Aug. 2019 p. 98. Description: It can be easy to overlook the poor and homeless. But truly seeing leads one to act with compassion and justice. Sharing personal en-counters and real-life stories, Terence Lester calls others to see the invisible people around us through God’s eyes, restoring their dignity and helping them flourish. And when we recognize our own inner spiritual poverty, we have greater empathy for others, no matter their circumstances. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Doubleday, 2020. xii, 401 p., 12 p. of plates.
Reviewed: TLS 12 Feb. 2021 p. 23. Description: In 2012, Dr. Karen King, a star professor at the Harvard Divinity School, announced a blockbuster discovery at a scholarly conference just steps from the Vatican: She had found an ancient fragment of papyrus in which Jesus calls Mary Magdalene “my wife.” The discovery made front-page news around the world–if early Christians believed that Jesus was married, it would threaten not just the celibate, all-male priesthood, but the entire 2,000-year history of the faith. Biblical scholars were in an uproar, but King had impeccable credentials as a world-renowned authority on female figures in the Gnostic gospels. The “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” as she titled her discovery, was both a crowning career achievement and powerful proof for her arguments that there were alternative, and much more inclusive, versions of Christianity from its beginnings. Assigned to write a story about King’s find, award-winning journalist Ariel Sabar began to unearth disquieting questions about the papyrus. His globe-spanning investigation would lead to a rural hamlet in inland Florida, where he discovered a college dropout with a prophetess wife, a curious past in Germany, and a tortured relationship with the Catholic Church. The deeper Sabar dug into the mysteries of the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” the more surreal the story became. Veritas is at once a surprising detective story, a fascinating journey through the rarefied worlds of Biblical Studies and Egyptology, a piercing psychological portrait of a many-faced con artist, and a tragedy about a brilliant scholar handed a piece of ancient paper that appealed to her greatest hopes for Christianity–but forced a reckoning with fundamental questions about the line between reason and faith. (publ.)
Publication Date: Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2019. viii, 369 p.
Reviewed: FA 98(5) Sept./Oct. 2019 p. 242. Description: Drawing on a plethora of African and French voices, it brings to life a Fran-co-African Catholic world that had been forged by conquest, colonization, missions, and conversions, and still exists today. Its denizens were preoccupied with the future of France’s African colonies, the place of Catholicism in Africa, and whether their personal loyalties should lie with the Vatican, France, or emerging African states. Many leading African intellectuals were Catholics, and the book shows that there was an important Catholic strand of the negritude movement, which has been completely ignored by scholars and impacted the church at the highest levels. This finding con-tributes to the book’s new, striking story of Catholic reform at mid-century, showing how decolonization was a pivotal factor in the reorientation of the church at Vatican II. (publ.)
Description: Explores afterlife beliefs and practices in world religions, including discussions of afterlife and metaphysical experiences. The second edition features a new chapter on African spiritual perspectives, as well as updated research on paranormal phenomena, updated statistics and research. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Sterling, 2019. 352 p.
Reviewed: PW 4 Mar. 2019 p. 80. Description: In today’s contentious political climate, understanding religion’s role in American government is more important than ever. Christian nationalists assert that our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and advocate an agenda based on this popular historical claim. But is this belief true? …Andrew L. Seidel, a constitutional attorney at the Freedom from Religion Foundation, builds his case point by point, comparing the Ten Commandments to the Constitution and contrasting biblical doctrine with America’s founding philosophy, showing that the Bible contradicts the Declaration of Independence’s central tenets. Thoroughly researched, this persuasively argued and fascinating book proves that America was not built on the Bible and that Christian nationalism is, in fact, un-American. (publ.)
Publication Date: [Oxford Early Christian Texts Ser.] Oxford: Oxford UP, 1017. 2 vol.
Description: Written around 220-230 AD, this is one of the most important and contentious works of early Christianity. It provoked controversy when written, provoked further debate when translated into Latin by Rufinus in the fourth century, and was the subject, together with its author, of condemnation in the sixth century. (publ.) Origen lived through a turbulent period of the Christian Church, when persecution was wide-spread and little or no doctrinal consensus existed among the various regional churches. In this environment, Gnosticism flourished, and Origen was the first truly philosophical thinker to turn his hand not only to a refutation of Gnosticism, but to offer an alternative Christian system that was more rigorous and philosophically respectable than the mythological speculations of the various Gnostic sects. Origen was also an astute critic of the pagan philosophy of his era, yet he also learned much from it, and adapted its most useful and edifying teachings to a grand elucidation of the Christian faith. (Internet Ency. of Philosophy)
Publication Date: [Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion, and Politics Ser.] Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 2017. xvi, 184 p.
Reviewed: NYT 4 Aug. 2019 p. SR5 (cited) Description: African American Catholics, though small in number and historically the targets of racial intolerance, are now the backbone of the church. The vast majority of African American Catholics do not perceive racial marginalization and intolerance in the church. African American Catholics are among the strongest religious identifiers in the church, while whites show a more fragile Catholic identity. The Catholic church may have finally overcome its racist past for the vast majority of African American Catholics, but serious concerns remain for white Catholics. Based on data from a national religion survey, this book explores religious attitudes from an African American Catholic perspective. … The authors present evidence that African American Catholics have a strong religious identity (stronger than white Catholics) and have various coping mechanisms to insulate them from negative racial experiences. (publ.)
Publication Date: Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2017. v, 246 p.
Description: Radical Islam is a major affliction of the contemporary world. Each year, radical Islamists carry out terrorist attacks that result in a massive death toll, almost all involving noncombatants and innocents. Estimates of how many Muslims could be considered followers of radical Islam vary widely, and there are few guides to help determine moderates versus radicals. Observers often sit at the extremes, either seeing all Muslims as open or closeted jihadis or recoiling from any attempt to link Islam with international terror. Both positions are overly simplistic, and the lack of rational principles to absolve the innocent and identify the accomplices of terror has led to governments and individuals mistakenly accepting jihadis as moderate. This book brings together an array of scholars–Muslims and non-Muslims–to provide this missing insight. It examines the relationship among Islam, civil society, and the state. (publ.)
Publication Date: New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2020. 230 p.
Reviewed: PW 28 Oct. 2019 p. 98. Description: Buddhism has become a uniquely favored religion in our modern age. A burgeoning number of books extol the scientifically proven benefits of meditation and mindfulness for everything ranging from business to romance. There are conferences, courses, and celebrities promoting the notion that Buddhism is spirituality for the rational; compatible with cutting-edge science; indeed, “a science of the mind.” In this provocative book, Evan Thompson argues that this representation of Buddhism is false. In lucid and entertaining prose, Thompson dives deep into both Western and Bud-hist philosophy to explain how the goals of science and religion are fundamentally different. Efforts to seek their unification are wrongheaded and promote mistaken ideas of both. He suggests cosmopolitanism in-stead, a worldview with deep roots in both Eastern and Western traditions. (publ.)
Publication Date: Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2017. xiii, 189 p.
Description: This book highlights the complicated diversity of Syria's ethnic and reli-gious fragmentation on the basis of the identity building process among the Yezidis, the lowest in the country’s socioeconomic and political hierarchy.
Publication Date: Eugene, Ore.: Cascade Books, 2019. 230 p.
Reviewed: PW 28 Jan. 2019 p. 91; PW 22 Apr. 2019 p. 20. Description: This book examines the DNA of the ideologies that shape our nation, ideologies that are as American as apple pie but that too often justify and perpetuate racist ideas and racial inequalities. Martin Luther King challenged us to investigate the “ideational roots of race hate” and Ghosts does just that by examining a philosophical “trinity”–Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Adam Smith–whose works collectively imagined, institutionalized, and ingrained racist ideologies into the hearts and minds of the American people. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: NYU Pr., 2018. x, 225 p.
Reviewed: Choice (Apr. 2019 vol. 56 no. 8) Recommended for community college libraries. Description: Opened to the public in July 2016, Ark Encounter is a creationist theme park in Kentucky. The park features an all-timber recreation of Noah’s ark, built full scale to creationist specifications drawn from the text of Genesis, as well as exhibits that imagine the Bible’s account of life before the flood. More than merely religious spectacle, Ark Encounter offers important insights about the relationship between religion and entertainment, religious publicity and creativity, and fundamentalist Christian claims to the public sphere. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: NYU Pr., 2018. vii, 275 p.
Reviewed: Choice (Dec. 2018 vol. 56 no. 4); Outstanding Academic Title; Top 75 books highly recommended for community college libraries. Description: For Sylvia Chan-Malik, Muslim womanhood is constructed through everyday and embodied acts of resistance, what she calls affective insurgency. In negotiating the histories of anti-Blackness, U.S. imperialism, and women’s rights of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, this book explores how U.S. Muslim women’s identities are expressions of Islam as both Black protest religion and universal faith tradition. The author maps how communities of American Islam became sites of safety, support, spirituality, and social activism, and how women of color were central to their formation. By accounting for American Islam’s rich histories of mobilization and community, Chan-Malik brings insight to the resistance that all Muslim women must engage in the post-9/11 United States. From the stories that she gathers, she demonstrates the diversity and similarities of Black, Arab, South Asian, Latina, and multiracial Muslim women, and how American understandings of Islam have shifted against the evolution of U.S. white nationalism over the past century. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2018. x, 351 p.
Reviewed: WSJ 29 June 2018 p. A15 (Author Op/Ed). Description: Raised in a progressive Muslim family in the shadows of the Himalayan mountains, where she attended a Catholic girls school, Daisy experienced culture shock when her family sent her to the States to attend high school in a mostly Jewish Long Island suburb. Ambitious and talented, she quickly climbed the corporate ladder after college as an architectural designer in New York City. Though she loved the freedom that came with being a career woman, she felt that something was missing from her life. One day a friend suggested that she visit a Sufi mosque in Tribeca. To her surprise, she discovered a home there, eventually marrying the mosque's imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, and finding herself, as his wife, at the center of a community in which women turned to her for advice. Guided by her faith, she embraced her role as a women's advocate and has devised innovative ways to help end child marriage, fight against genital mutilation, and, most recently, educate young Muslims to resist the false promises of ISIS recruiters. (publ.)
Publication Date: Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018, c2017. xxxv, 315 p., 16 p. of plates
Reviewed: TLS 13 July 2018 p. 32; NYT/BR 10 June 2018 p. 12 Description: A bold new history of the rise of Christianity, showing how its radical fol-lowers ravaged vast swathes of classical culture, plunging the world into an era of intellectual darkness. In Harran, the locals refused to convert. They were dismembered, their limbs hung along the town’s main street. In Alexandria, zealots pulled the elderly philosopher-mathematician Hypatia from her chariot and flayed her to death with shards of broken pottery. Not long before, their fellow Christians had invaded the city’s greatest temple and razed it–smashing its world-famous statues and destroying all that was left of Alexandria’s Great Library. Today, we refer to Christianity’s conquest of the West as a triumph. But this victory entailed an orgy of destruction in which Jesus’s followers attacked and suppressed classical culture, helping to pitch Western civilization into a thousand-year-long d-cline. Just one percent of Latin literature would survive the purge. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Random House, 2018. xviii, 178 p.
Reviewed: NPR “Morning Edition” (8 Feb. 2019) Description: Kate Bowler is a professor at Duke Divinity School with a modest Christian upbringing, but she specializes in the study of the prosperity gospel, a creed that sees fortune as a blessing from God and misfortune as a mark of God’s disapproval. At thirty-five, everything in her life seems to point toward “blessing.” She is thriving in her job, married to her high school sweetheart, and loves life with her newborn son. Then she is diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. The prospect of her own mortality forces Kate to realize that she has been tacitly subscribing to the prosperity gospel, living with the conviction that she can control the shape of her life with “a surge of determination.” Even as this type of Christianity celebrates the American can-do spirit, it implies that if you “can’t do” and succumb to illness or misfortune, you are a failure. Kate is very sick, and no amount of positive thinking will shrink her tumors. What does it mean to die, she wonders, in a society that insists everything happens for a reason? Kate is stripped of this certainty only to discover that without it, life is hard but beautiful in a way it never has been before. Frank and funny, dark and wise, Kate Bowler pulls the reader deeply into her life in an ac-count she populates affectionately with a colorful, often hilarious retinue of friends, mega-church preachers, relatives, and doctors. This book tells her story, offering up her irreverent, hard-won observations on dying and the ways it has taught her to live. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Oxford UP, 2018. vii, 176 p.
Description: Long before the followers of Jesus declared him to be the Son of God, Jesus taught his followers that they too were the children of God. This ancient creed, now all but forgotten, is recorded still within the folds of a letter of Paul the Apostle. Paul did not create this creed, nor did he fully embrace it, but he quoted it and thus preserved it for a time when it might become important once again. This ancient creed said nothing about God or Christ or salvation. Its claims were about the whole human race: there is no race, there is no class, there is no gender. This is the story of that first, forgotten creed, and the world of its begetting, a world in which foreigners were feared, slaves were human chattel, and men questioned whether women were really human after all. Into this world the followers of Jesus proclaimed: “You are all children of God. There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male and female, for you are all one.” Where did this remarkable statement of human solidarity come from, and what, finally, happened to it? How did Christianity become a Gentile religion that despised Jews, condoned slavery as the will of God, and championed patriar-chy? (publ.)
Publication Date: New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2018. xi, 403 p.
Reviewed: PW 9 July 2018 p. 44. Description: Provides an up-to-date introduction to the major collections of early Christian manuscripts and demonstrates that much of what we thought we knew about these books and fragments is mistaken. While biblical scholars have expended much effort in their study of the texts contained within our earliest Christian manuscripts, there has been a surprising lack of interest in thinking about these books as material objects with individual, unique histories. We have too often ignored the ways that the antiquities market obscures our knowledge of the origins of these manuscripts. Through pains-taking archival research and detailed studies of our most important collections of early Christian manuscripts, Nongbri vividly shows how the earliest Christian books are more than just carriers of texts or samples of handwriting. They are three-dimensional archaeological artifacts with fascinating stories to tell, if we're willing to listen. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: W. W. Norton, 2018. 3 vols.
Reviewed: PW 24 Sept. 2018 p. 100; NYT/M 23 Dec. 2018 p. 43; 12 Nov. 2018 p. S18 (author profile). Description: Robert Alter’s translation of the Hebrew Bible reanimates one of the formative works of our culture. Capturing its brilliantly compact poetry and finely wrought, purposeful prose, Alter renews the Old Testament as a source of literary power and spiritual inspiration. From the family frictions of Genesis and King David’s flawed humanity to the serene wisdom of Psalms and Job’s incendiary questioning of God’s ways, these magnificent works of world literature resonate with a startling immediacy. Featuring Alter’s generous commentary, which quietly alerts readers to the literary and historical dimensions of the text, this is the definitive edition of the Hebrew Bible. Robert Alter is Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Penguin Pr., 2009. 779 p.
Reviewed: NYT/BR 17 Mar. 2019 p. 19 (review author) Description: A narrative account of history and myth that offers a new way of under-standing one of the world’s oldest major religions, this book elucidates the relationship between recorded history and imaginary worlds. Hinduism does not lend itself easily to a strictly chronological account: many of its central texts cannot be reliably dated; its central tenets–karma, dharma, to name just two–arise at particular moments in Indian history and differ in each era, between genders, and caste to caste; and what is shared among Hindus is overwhelmingly outnumbered by the things that are unique to one group or another. Yet the greatness of Hinduism–its vitality, its earthiness, its vividness– lies precisely in many of those idiosyncratic qualities that continue to inspire debate today. Wendy Doniger, one of the world’s foremost scholars of Hinduism, illuminates those moments within the tradition that resist forces that would standardize or establish a canon. (publ.)
Publication Date: New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2018. xvi, 221 p.
Reviewed: JRB 9(4) Winter 2019 p. 6 (reviewer). Description: The age of the Hebrew Bible is a topic that has sparked controversy and debate in recent years. The scarcity of clear evidence allows for the possibility of many views, though these are often clouded by theological and political biases. This impressive, broad-ranging book synthesizes recent linguistic, textual, and historical research to clarify the history of biblical literature, from its oldest texts and literary layers to its youngest. In clear, concise language, the authors provide a comprehensive overview that cuts across scholarly specialties to create a new standard for the historical study of the Bible. This much-needed work paves the path forward to dating the Hebrew Bible and understanding crucial aspects of its historical and con-temporary significance. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 8 Apr. 2019 p. 67; NYT 2 June 2019 p. SR1 (essay); NYT/BR 21 July 2019 p. 14; PW 28 Oct. 2019 p. 34 (Best Books 2019). Description: A third-generation Jehovah’s Witness, Amber Scorah had devoted her life to sounding God’s warning of impending Armageddon. She volunteered to take the message to China, where the preaching she did was illegal and could result in her expulsion or worse. … To support her-self, she found work at a Chinese language learning podcast, hiding her real purpose from her coworkers. Now with a creative outlet, getting to know worldly people for the first time, she began to understand that there were other ways of seeing the world and living a fulfilling life. When one of these relationships became an “escape hatch,” Scorah’s loss of faith culminated in her own personal apocalypse, the only kind of ending possible for a Jehovah’s Witness. Shunned by family and friends as an apostate, Scorah was alone in Shanghai and thrown into a world she had only known from the periphery–with no education or support system. A coming of age story of a woman already in her thirties, this unforgettable memoir examines what it’s like to start one’s life over again with an entirely new identity. It follows Scorah to New York City, where a personal tragedy forces her to look for new ways to find meaning in the absence of religion. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Nation Books, 2018. vii, 326 p.
Reviewed: NYT/BR 30 Dec. 2018 p. 13. Description: Author Juan Cole shows how Muhammad came of age in an era of unparalleled violence. The eastern Roman Empire and the Sasanian Empire of Iran fought savagely throughout the Near East and Asia Minor. Muhammad’s profound distress at the carnage of his times led him to envision an alternative movement, one firmly grounded in peace. The religion Muhammad founded, Islam, spread widely during his lifetime, relying on soft power instead of military might, and sought armistices even when militarily attacked. Cole sheds light on this forgotten history, reminding us that in the Qur’an, the legacy of that spiritual message endures. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Oxford UP, 2019. 312 p.
Reviewed: PW 14 Jan. 2019 p. 45. Description: Drawing on a large-scale national study of four generations of current and former Mormons as well as dozens of in-depth personal interviews, Riess explores the religious beliefs and behaviors of young adult Mormons, finding that while their levels of belief remain strong, their institutional loyal-ties are less certain than their parents’ and grandparents’. For a growing number of Millennials, the tensions between the Church’s conservative ideals and their generation’s commitment to individualism and pluralism prove too high, causing them to leave the faith-often experiencing deep personal anguish in the process. Those who remain within the fold are at-tempting to carefully balance the Church’s strong emphasis on the traditional family with their generation's more inclusive definition that cel-brates same-sex couples and women's equality. Mormon families are changing too. More Mormons are remaining single, parents are having fewer children, and more women are working outside the home than a generation ago. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Berkeley, 2018. xii, 289 p.
Reviewed: PW 9 July 2018 p. 24. Description: For years, Michelle LeClair, former President of Scientology’s international humanitarian organization, tried to reconcile her sexual orientation with the anti-gay ideology of the church. Michelle finally ends her horrific marriage, finds the love of her life, a woman, and ultimately leaves the Church. But the split comes at a terrible price. Her once pristine reputation is publicly dragged through the mud, the police raid her home, her ex-husband tries to gain full custody of their children, and the multi-million dollar business she built from scratch is utterly destroyed. In this tell-all memoir, Michelle offers an insider's perspective on Scientology’s pervasive influence, secret rituals, and ruthless practices for keeping members in line. It’s a story of self-acceptance, of finding the strength and courage to stand up for your emotional freedom, and of love prevailing. (publ.)
Publication Date: Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2017. ix, 235 p.
Reviewed: LR July 2018 p. 41. Description: Writing in an appealing style based on first-hand accounts, Bucar invites readers to join her in three Muslim-majority nations as she surveys how women approach the question “What to wear?” By looking at fashion trends in the bustling cities of Tehran, Yogyakarta, and Istanbul–and at the many ways clerics, designers, politicians, and bloggers try to influence Muslim women’s choices–she concludes that pious fashion depends to a large extent on local aesthetic and moral values, rather than the dictates of religious doctrine. Philosophy professor Bucar defines modesty in Islamic dress as an ever-changing social practice among Muslim women who–much like non-Muslim women–create from a range of available clothing items and accessories styles they think will look both appropriate and attractive. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Touchstone, 2018. viii, 341 p.
Reviewed: PW 23 July 2018 p. 201. Description: From a woman who has been there and back, the first inside look at the devastating effects evangelical Christianity’s purity culture has had on a generation of young women–in a potent combination of journalism, cultural commentary, and memoir. In the 1990s, a “purity industry” emerged out of the white evangelical Christian culture. Purity rings, purity pledges, and purity balls came with a dangerous message: girls are potential sexual “stumbling blocks” for boys and men, and any expression of a girl’s sexuality could reflect the corruption of her character. This message traumatized many girls–resulting in anxiety, fear, and experiences that mimicked the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder–and trapped them in a cycle of shame. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Oxford UP, 2017. xviii, 377 p.
Reviewed:TLS 21 Sept. 2018 p. 32. Description: The breadth of this book is expansive, covering the experience of Islamist groups in twelve countries: Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and Pakistan, as well as Malaysia and Indonesia. In each of these cases, contributors consider how Muslim Brother-hood and Brotherhood-inspired Islamist movements have grappled with fundamental questions, including gradual versus revolutionary approaches to change, the use of tactical or situational violence, attitudes toward the nation-state, and how ideology and political variables interact. The case studies include authoritarian and democratic states and are not solely focused on the Arab world, allowing readers to consider a greater diversity of Islamist experiences. (publ.)
Publication Date: Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2018. x, 374 p.
Reviewed: Choice (May 2019 vol. 56 no. 9) Essential; Top 75 Titles recommended for community college libraries. Description: Greek myths have long been admired as beautiful, thrilling stories but dismissed as serious objects of belief, even for the Greeks them-selves. Indeed, for centuries scholars have argued that the stories that the Greeks handed down to us–the epics, the tragedies and the other compelling works that the Greeks left behind–obscure the “real” myths that supposedly inspired them, and have striven to excavate their hidden meanings. Johnston, however, argues that it was precisely their nature as stories–as gripping tales, starring vivid characters–that enabled myths to do their most important work: to create and sustain belief in the gods and heroes that populated them, thus forming the basis of Greek religion. By drawing on recent work in narratology, sociology and folklore studies and by comparing Greek myths to other narratives–not only the myths of other cultures such as the ancient Near East, but fairy tales, fantasy works, 19th century ghost stories, modern novels, and television series, as well–author Sarah Iles Johnston reveals the subtle yet powerful ways in which the myths forged enduring bonds between their characters and their audience members, created coherent story-worlds, and made it possible to believe in extraordinary gods. (publ.)
Publication Date: Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 2017. xiv, 389 p.
Reviewed: NYRB 7 Mar. 2019 p. 23. Description: In this comprehensive new history of Sufism from the earliest centuries of Islam to today, Alexander Knysh, a leading expert on the subject, reveals the tradition in all its richness. Knysh explores how Sufism has been viewed by both insiders and outsiders since its inception. He examines the key aspects of Sufism, from definitions and discourses to leadership, institutions, and practices. He devotes special attention to Sufi approaches to the Qur’an, drawing parallels with similar uses of scripture in Judaism and Christianity. He traces how Sufism grew from a set of simple moral-ethical precepts into a sophisticated tradition with professional Sufi masters (shaykhs) who became powerful players in Muslim public life but whose authority was challenged by those advocating the equality of all Muslims be-fore God. Knysh also examines the roots of the ongoing conflict between the Sufis and their fundamentalist critics, the Salafis–a major fact of Muslim life today. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Routledge, 2018. xii, 439 p.
Reviewed: Choice (Oct. 2018 vol. 56 no. 2); Essential, Recommended for community college libraries; Outstanding academic title. Description: The Upanisads are among the most sacred foundational scriptures in the Hindu religion. Composed from 800 BCE onward and making up part of the larger Vedic corpus, they offer the reader “knowledge lessons” on life, death, and immortality. While they are essential to understanding Hinduism and Asian religions more generally, their complexities make them almost impenetrable to anyone but serious scholars of Sanskrit and ancient Indian culture. (publ.) “Students of India’s literature, culture, and religions will find authoritative introductions and up-to-date references for further reading. And scholars of intellectual history and philosophy will be able to trace the transmission of concepts (for example, Atman and Brahman, Karma and rebirth, mantra, and Yoga) that entered the modern West through Schopenhauer, Emerson, Eliot, et al.”(Choice)
Publication Date: Washington, D.C.: Humanist Pr., 2018. 232 p.
Description: More than just a primer on Humanism, but not quite a full-blown treatise on philosophy, this book offers some answers to those crucial questions Socrates asked: What is true? And how shall we live our lives? Those of us who don’t believe in the supernatural sometimes struggle to understand how we can ground ourselves ethically, and how to find truth, meaning, purpose and joy. This book offers ideas about how to know, without depending on Holy Scriptures or guidance from a deity, what it means to lead a good and ethical life. (publ.)
Publication Date: New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2018. viii, 261 p.
Reviewed: PW 12 Nov. 2018 p. s8; LJ Winter 2018 p. 63; Choice (Jun. 2019 vol. 56 no. 10); Recommended for community college libraries; JRB Winter 2020 p. 7. Description: How did a group of charismatic, apocalyptic Jewish missionaries, working to prepare their world for the impending realization of God’s promises to Israel, end up inaugurating a movement that would grow into the gentile church? Committed to Jesus’s prophecy–“The Kingdom of God is at hand!”–they were, in their own eyes, history’s last generation. But in his-tory’s eyes, they became the first Christians. In this social and intellectual history, Paula Fredriksen answers this question by reconstructing the life of the earliest Jerusalem community. As her account arcs from this group’s hopeful celebration of Passover with Jesus, through their bitter controversies that fragmented the movement’s midcentury missions, to the city’s fiery end in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, she brings this vibrant apostolic community to life. Fredriksen offers a vivid portrait both of this temple-centered messianic movement and of the bedrock convictions that animated and sustained it. (publ.)
Publication Date: Milwaukee, Wisc.: Marquette UP, 2016. 144 p.
Description: The consequences of becoming a Christian in the early Christian movement is set apart from that move from any other religious affiliation. You could become a Mithraist or Isiac or whatever, and it made no difference to your previous religious activities and loyalties. You continued to take part in the worship of your inherited deities of household, city, nation. But if you became a Christian you were expected to desist from worship of all other deities. And the ubiquitous place of the gods in all spheres of social and political activity made that difficult, and made for potentially serious consequences if you did desist. Indeed, it made it difficult to know how you could function socially and politically (to use our terminology). This book explores the growth of adherents to early Christianity; that all across this early period people became adherents of Christianity in the face of the costs and consequences of doing so. (publ.)
Publication Date: Oakland: U. California Pr., 2018. xii, 245 p.
Description: The term “Islamophobia” may be fairly new, but irrational fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims is anything but. Though many speak of Islamophobia’s roots in racism, have we considered how anti-Muslim rhetoric is rooted in our legal system? Using his unique lens as a critical race theorist and law professor, Khaled A. Beydoun captures the many ways in which law, policy, and official state rhetoric have fueled the frightening resurgence of Islamophobia in the United States. (publ.)
Publication Date: Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 2017. 248 p.
Reviewed: PW10 July 2017 p. 37; PW 14 Aug. 2017 p. 70; PW 30 Oct. 2017 (Best Books of 2017). Description: Two biblical scholars combine to dig into the actions and words of the billionaire Green family, founders of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores. Moss and Baden portray the Green family members and their key executives as sincere evangelicals and benevolent employers. Throughout the book, however, they also show the Greens as naïve or dis-ingenuous. To be sure, the family’s proselytizing is not neutral. Rather, they are promoting a historically inaccurate saga of the U.S. as an exclusionary Christian nation meant to marry church and state. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Oxford UP, 2016. xvii, 574, 1949, 32 p.
Description: Contains study notes, expanded essays, and informational sidebars. The extensive Reading Guide, the focal point of this volume, leads the reader through the Scriptures, book by book. References and background information are laid out to guide the reader to a fuller under-standing of the Bible. New to this edition is a more extensive treatment of the biblical background, including history and archeology. Other features include a 15-page glossary of special terms and complete Sunday and weekday lectionary readings for the liturgical years of the Church. (publ.)
Publication Date: Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2017. xii, 365 p.
Reviewed: CHE 29 Sept. 2017 (new books) Description: The Chance of Salvation offers a history of conversions in the United States which shows how religious identity came to be a matter of choice. … By uncovering the way that religious identity is structured as an obligatory decision, this book explains why Americans change their religions so much, and why the United States is both highly religious in terms of religious affiliation and very secular in the sense that no religion is an unquestioned default. (publ.)
Reviewed: TLS 23 Mar. 2018 p. 14. Description: The 1400-year-old schism between Sunnis and Shi‘is has rarely been as toxic as it is today, feeding wars and communal strife in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and many other countries, with tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran escalating. In this richly layered ac-count, John McHugo reveals how this great divide occurred. (publ.)
Publication Date: Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2017. xvi, 303 p., 16 p. of plates.
Reviewed: CHE 22 Sept. 2017 (new books) Description: Traces the emergence of Christianity from its stirrings in the eastern Mediterranean, where Jewish monotheism coexisted with polytheism and prayer mixed with magic. In a time receptive to prophetic messages and supernatural interventions, Jesus of Nazareth convinced people to change their beliefs by showing, through miracles, his direct connection to god-like power. The miracle of the Resurrection solidified Jesus’s supernatural credentials. After his death, followers continued to use miracles and magic to spread Jesus’s message of reward for the righteous in this life and immortality in the next. Many Jews and polytheists strongly opposed the budding movement but despite major setbacks Christianity proved resilient and adaptable. It survived long enough to be saved by a second miracle, the conversion of Emperor Constantine. (publ.)
Publication Date: Stanford, Calif.: Stanford UP, 2018. x, 188 p.
Reviewed: Choice Aug. 2018 vol. 55 no. 12 (Essential; Recommended for community college libraries); CHE 6 Apr. 2018 (new books). Description: Offers a new account of the development of scientific ideas about race. Focusing on the production of scientific knowledge over the last three centuries, Terence Keel uncovers the persistent links between pre-modern Christian thought and contemporary scientific perceptions of human difference. (publ.)
Publication Date: Berkeley, Calif.: Counterpoint, 2018. 416 p.
Reviewed: PW 8 Jan. 2018 p. 57; LJ 1 March 2018 p. 93; TLS 5 Oct. 2018 p. 29. Description: Sands Hall chronicles her slow yet willing absorption into the Church of Scientology. Her time in the Church, the late 1970s, includes the secretive illness and death of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and the ascension of David Miscavige. Hall compellingly reveals what drew her into the religion—what she found intriguing and useful—and how she came to confront its darker sides. … In this candid and nuanced memoir, Hall recounts her spiritual and artistic journey with a visceral affection for language, delighting in the way words can create a shared world. However, as Hall begins to grasp how purposefully Hubbard has created the unique language of Scientology—in the process isolating and indoctrinating its practitioners—she confronts how language can also be used as a tool of authoritarianism. (publ.)
Publication Date: Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 2018. xviii, 392 p.
Reviewed: PW 19 Feb. 2018 p. 38 Description: Assmann delves into the enduring mythic power of the Exodus narrative, examining the text's compositional history and calling attention to distinctive motifs and dichotomies: enslavement and redemption; belief and doubt; proper worship and idolatry; loyalty and betrayal. Revelation is a central theme–the revelation of God’s power in miracles, of God’s presence in the burning bush, and of God’s chosen dwelling among the Israelites in the vision of the tabernacle. Above all, it is God’s covenant with Israel–the binding obligation of the Israelites to acknowledge God as their redeemer and obey His law–that is Exodus’s most encompassing and trans-formative idea, one that challenged basic assumptions about humankind’s relationship to the divine in the ancient world. (publ.) Note: Originally published as: Exodus: Die Revolution der Alten Welt (Munich: Beck, 2015).
Publication Date: New York: W. W. Norton, 2011. 352 p.
Reviewed: Economist 26 Aug. 2017 p. 19 (referenced) Description: From furious reactions to the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad to the suppression of women, news from the Muslim world begs the question: is Islam incompatible with freedom? With an eye sympathetic to Western liberalism and Islamic theology, Mustafa Akyol traces the ideological and historical roots of political Islam. (publ.)
Publication Date: Oxford, England: Oxford UP, 2017. xxix, 824 p.
Description: First published in 2011, The Jewish Annotated New Testament was a groundbreaking work, bringing the new Testament’s Jewish background to the attention of students, clergy, and general readers. In this new edition, eighty Jewish scholars bring together unparalleled scholarship to shed new light on the text. This thoroughly revised and greatly expanded second edition brings even more helpful information and new insights to the study of the new Testament. (publ.)
Publication Date: Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 2017. xxiii, 192 p.
Reviewed: CHE 8 Sept. 2017 (new books) Description: This book provides a uniquely personal look at the social worlds of a group of young male friends as they navigate the complexities of growing up Muslim in America. Drawing on three and a half years of intensive fieldwork in and around a large urban mosque, John O’Brien offers a compelling portrait of typical Muslim American teenage boys concerned with typical teenage issues—girlfriends, school, parents, being cool—yet who are also expected to be good, practicing Muslims who don’t date before marriage, who avoid vulgar popular culture, and who never miss their prayers. (publ.)
Reviewed: TLS 2 Feb. 2018 p. 33 Description: Gerald O’Collins & John Wilkins take a systematic look at the 2010 English translation of the Roman Missal and the ways it fails to achieve what the Second Vatican Council mandated: the full participation of priest and people. Critiquing the unsatisfactory principles prescribed by the Vatican instruction Liturgiam Authenticam (2001), this book tells the story of the maneuverings that sidelined the 1998 translation approved by eleven conferences of English-speaking bishops, criticizes the 2010 translation, and illustrates the clear superiority of the 1998 translation, the “Missal that never was.” (publ.)
Publication Date: Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2017. xiv, 207 p.
Reviewed: TLS 17 Nov. 2017 p. 40. Description: Tim Crane writes that there is a fundamental flaw with most atheists' basic approach: religion is not what they think it is. Atheists tend to treat religion as a kind of primitive cosmology, as the sort of explanation of the universe that science offers. They conclude that religious believers are irrational, superstitious, and bigoted. But this view of religion is almost entirely inaccurate. Crane offers an alternative account based on two ideas. The first is the idea of a religious impulse …The second is the idea of identification …Once these ideas are properly understood, the inadequacy of atheists' conventional conception of religion emerges. (publ.)
Publication Date: Harlow, England: Pearson, 2013. xxi, 181 p.
Description: Looks at the origins, development and organization of the military orders during the 12th and 13th centuries, showing how they functioned as a form of religious life and concentrating on their role in the Crusades and in the government and defense of the Christian kingdoms in the Holy Land. (publ.)
Publication Date: Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 2018. xv, 551 p.
Reviewed: NYRB 7 June 2018 p. 34 Description: Drawing on a vast range of literary and archaeological evidence, Rüpke shows how Roman religion shaped and was shaped by its changing historical contexts from the ninth century BCE to the fourth century CE. Because religion was not a distinct sphere in the Roman world, the book treats religion as inseparable from political, social, economic, and cultural developments. The narrative emphasizes the diversity of Roman religion; offers a new view of central concepts such as “temple,” “altar,” and “votive”; reassesses the gendering of religious practices; and much more. Throughout, Pantheon draws on the insights of modern religious studies, but without “modernizing” ancient religion. This generously illustrated book is also distinguished by its unique emphasis on lived religion, a perspective that stresses how individuals’ experiences and practices transform religion into something different from its official form. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Oxford UP, 2017. x, 407 p.
Reviewed: CHE 25 Aug. 2017 (new books) Description: Traces the lives of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, from humble beginnings to wealth, fame, and eventual disgrace after revelations of a sex scandal and massive financial mismanagement. (publ.)
Publication Date: Louisville, Ken.: Westminster John Knox Pr., 2018. 176 p.
Reviewed: PW 12 Feb. 2018 p. 74 Description: Patriarchy is still sanctioned by every institution: capitalism, government, and even–maybe especially–the church itself. This is perhaps the ultimate irony–that a religion based on the radical justice and liberation of Jesus’ teachings has been the most complicit part of the narrative against women’s equality. If we are going to dial back the harmful rhetoric against women and their bodies, the community of faith is going to have to be a big part of the solution. Pastor and author Erin Wathen navigates the complex layers of what it means to be a woman in our time and place–from the language we use to the clothes that we wear to the unseen and unspoken assumptions that challenge our full personhood at every turn. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: HarperOne, 2018. 224 p.
Reviewed: PW 8 Jan. 2018 p. 60 Description: Traveling the world, the Crossans noticed a surprising difference in how the Eastern Church considers Jesus’ resurrection—an event not described in the Bible. At Saint Barbara’s Church in Cairo, they found a painting in which the risen Jesus grasps the hands of other figures around him. Unlike the Western image of a solitary Jesus rising from an empty tomb that he viewed across Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the Crossans saw images of the resurrection depicting a Jesus grasping the hands of figures around him, or lifting Adam and Eve to heaven from Hades or hell, or carrying the old and sick to the afterlife. They dis-covered that the standard image for the Resurrection in Eastern Christianity is communal and collective, something unique from the solitary depiction of the resurrection in Western Christianity.
Publication Date: New York: W. W. Norton, 2017. 419 p., 16 p. of plates.
Reviewed: WSJ 9/10 Sept. 2017 p. C10; NPR 14 Sept. 2017 (book review) "It All Began With Adam And Eve"; NYRB 28 Sept. 2017 p. 22; LR Sept. 2017 p. 30; NYT/BR 8 Oct. 2017 p. 18. Description: Tracking the tale into the deep past, to the Hebrews’ exile in Babylon, Greenblatt explores the tremendous theological, artistic, and cultural creativity over the centuries that made Adam and Eve so profoundly resonant, and continues to make them, finally, so very “real” to millions of people even in the present. Both a hymn to human responsibility and a dark fable about human wretchedness, their story–told in only a few verses in an ancient book–has served as a mirror in which we seem to glimpse the whole, long history of human fears and desires. (publ.)
Reviewed: Choice Aug 2017 vol. 54 no. 12 (Recommended for community college library collections) Holdings: 1st ed. (2003) at Calmar Library; call no. 291.178 Sel Description: From ISIS attacks to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, Sacred Fury explores the connections between faith and violence in world religions. Selengut looks at religion as both a force for peace and for violence, and asks key questions such as how “religious” is this violence and what drives the faithful to attack in the names of their beliefs? (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Oxford UP, 2018. xii, 334 p.
Description: Most Americans and Europeans have by now heard of Shariah. In the West, politicians, media commentators, televangelists, and others have stoked fears that Muslims intend to impose a repressive rule based on Shariah in America and Europe. Shariah has been portrayed as a medieval system that oppresses women, stifles human rights, and imposes harsh punishments like stoning and amputation. In reality, however, Shariah is a complex concept that has been interpreted in many ways over time and around the world. It plays a vital role in the lives of Muslims around the world, offering guidance on everything from personal morality to ritual practices, family life, and finance. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018. xiv, 335 p.
Reviewed: NPR (“Fresh Air” 3/20/2018) Description: The author explains how a religion whose first believers were twenty or so illiterate day laborers in a remote part of the empire became the official religion of Rome, converting some thirty million people in just four centuries. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Ballentine, 2015. xiv, 234 p., 24 p. of plates.
Reviewed: NPR 3 Nov. 2015 (All Things Considered). Description: Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost. That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience, revealing the details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017. xii, 321 p.
Reviewed: TLS 9 feb. 2017 p. 31; NPR (Review 9/26/2017 & "Fresh Air" 8/7/2017) Description: At the heart of Buddhism is a simple claim: The reason we suffer–and the reason we make other people suffer–is that we don’t see the world clearly. At the heart of Buddhist meditative practice is a radical promise: we can learn to see the world, including ourselves, more clearly, and so gain a deep and morally valid happiness. Robert Wright not only shows how taking this promise seriously can change your life–how it can loosen the grip of anxiety, regret, and hatred–but also how it can deepen your appreciation of beauty and of other people. (publ.)
Publication Date: Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2017. 293 p.
Reviewed: CHE 12 May 2017 (new books) Description: Examines the history and allure of what is here termed the mistaken umbrella notion of the Muslim world as an idea held by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. (CHE)
Publication Date: Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State UP, 2017. xiv, 569 p.
Reviewed: CHE 10 Feb. 2017 (new books) Note: Originally published as: Ha-Kishuf Ha-Yehudi Ha-ḳadum = הכישוף היהודי הקדום = Early Jewish Magic: Research, Method, Sources (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2010).
Publication Date: Oxford, England: Oxford UP, 2017. vii, 193 p.
Description: Written by one of the world’s leading authorities on the Reformation, this is the vexed and sometimes shocking story of Martin Luther’s increasingly vitriolic attitude towards the Jews over the course of his lifetime, set against the backdrop of a world in religious turmoil. A final chapter then reflects on the extent to which the legacy of Luther’s anti-semitism was to taint the Lutheran church over the following centuries.
Publication Date: New York: Random House, 2017. xxxiii, 540 p., 8 p. of plates.
Reviewed: WSJ 1-2 April 2017 p. C5; LJ Dec. 2017 p. 32 (Best Books 2017) Description: “…a fine account of the man, both his good and bad sides, rooted in a profound knowledge of the social milieu from which he came and through which he worked; a magnificent study of one of history’s most compelling and divisive figures.” (Prof. Richard J. Evans, in WSJ).
Publication Date: New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2015. xxi, 341 p.
Reviewed: Choice (Essential; Outstanding Academic Title) Note: October 2017 if the 500th anniv. of the start of the “Protestant Reformation,” commemorating the day Luther posted a document on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg presenting his 95 Theses for public debate.
Reviewed: Choice Aug 2017 vol. 54 no. 12 (Recommended for community college library collections) Holdings: 1st ed. (2003) at Calmar Library; call no. 291.178 Sel Description: From ISIS attacks to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, Sacred Fury explores the connections between faith and violence in world religions. Selengut looks at religion as both a force for peace and for violence, and asks key questions such as how “religious” is this violence and what drives the faithful to attack in the names of their beliefs? (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Bloomsbury/T&T Clark, 2017. xv, 169 p.
Reviewed: Choice Aug 2017 vol. 54 no. 12 (Recommended) Description: In this book Jaco Gericke is concerned with the question of what, according to the Hebrew Bible, an Elohim (God) was assumed to be. (publ.)