I have found nothing of its kind before. If you want to understand the Byzantine Rite, then read this book. Robert Taft provides a great, short summary of how eastern Christians have worshipped. [Read more…] about A Brief Review of The Byzantine Rite by Robert Taft
Throughout the history of the church, Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper has played a key role. And yet his words have also played a controversial role. During the Protestant Reformation, the fault lines were drawn around the issue of the Eucharist. Did the bread and wine make Christ present by transforming the elements into the body and blood of Christ (Roman Catholic View) or did Christ become present in the elements without this transformation (Reformed view)?
While James Arcadi does not try to adjudicate such historical debates, he does offer a constructive proposal for how one can see the elements making Christ present on the basis of Chalcedonian orthodoxy. [Read more…] about Review of An Incarnational Model of the Eucharist by James Arcadi
Christianity grew from a faith with a few hundred people to 30 million people in under four-hundred years. By the year four-hundred, half of the Roman Empire’s 60 million people believed in Jesus Christ. From being a persecuted minority to being the majority faith among the Romans, Christianity triumphed.
How exactly did this happen? That’s the question that Bart Ehrman asks in his latest work, The Triumph of Christianity. [Read more…] about Review of The Triumph of Christianity by Bart Ehrman
Christianity from its start was a bookish religion. The apostle Paul began writing letters to churches about two decades after the death of Jesus. And Christian communities sprung up across the Empire (and beyond). Yet the disciples of Jesus, although numbered in the hundreds, eventually would die out. How would later generations hear the story of Jesus?
The answer is that eyewitnesses of Jesus would commit their memories to writing to preserve the history of Jesus for future generations. That eyewitness testimony lies behind the Gospels provides a clue not only to the historical transmission of the Gospel traditions about Jesus but also, as Richard Bauckham argues in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, the theological mode of communication. [Read more…] about Review of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2nd edition) by Richard Bauckham
For the last three centuries, conservative Christians have attempted to defend traditional Christianity against the rising trend of biblical criticism. Biblical critics argued that Christian theology was layered on top of the Bible. So they wanted to get what the Bible meant before Christians added their theological biases to the text.
But does classical Christianity actually add a layer of meaning to the text that is not there? Does the Old Testament truly speak of Christ, or do we see Christ in the Old Testament by reading him into it? Should we read the Old Testament as part of a unified and inspired message about God, or is this an imposition upon the text?
These are the sorts of questions that Craig Carter attempts to answer in Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition. His basic argument is that we need to return to a uniquely Christian way of reading the Bible, which has been replaced (especially in the academy) by a naturalistic way of reading the Bible. [Read more…] about Review of Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition by Craig Carter
Behr, John, ed. and trans. Origen: On First Principles. 2 Volumes. Oxford Early Christian Texts. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Origen of Alexandria (c.185–c.254) is one of the most influential and controversial figures in the history of the church. He remains controversial even today. For example, many accuse Origen of believing in the pre-existence of souls, of being an allegorist (the implication being that he doesn’t understand the Bible), and of castrating himself.
Yet these accusations are either false or overstate the case. Origen did not castrate himself. Instead, this accusation probably comes from a false charge made against him from his opponents. He did read the Bible allegorically, but he also read the Bible literally. And his view of the pre-existence of souls is complicated, but Origen seems to root the existence of souls within God’s foreknowledge (or plan in his Wisdom).
Origen deserves a critical reception, but we must do better at critiquing him for the positions that he actually held. One way to do this is by learning more about his life and writings, especially On First Principles (the book that I am here reviewing). [Read more…] about Review of Origen: On First Principles Edited And Translated by John Behr