Welcome once again to Eerdmans All Over, a Friday roundup of all the Eerdmans-related news, reviews, interviews, and other interesting online content we can gather in a given week.

Recent Releases


The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus
Michael Bird


News from Eerdmans . . .

  • Chuck DeGroat (Toughest People to Love) will be speaking at the Eerdmans Bookstore on September 24 from 4pm – 6pm on “How to Avoid the Church’s ‘Hero Culture’.” Get more details at the event’s page on Facebook. Hope to see you there!

. . . and elsewhere.

Have we missed any news, reviews, or other online miscellany dealing with Eerdmans or EBYR books or authors from the last week? Please let us know in the comments. You also can post items on our Facebook timeline, mention us on Twitter (@eerdmansbooks or @ebyrbooks), or write to us directly: webmaster@eerdmans.com.

Ah, August . . .

Can you feel the back-to-school excitement sizzling in the sultry summer air?

Elementary school students are shopping colorful store aisles for pencils and Elmer’s Glue. (Who knew pencils and glue could be so much fun?)

College and seminary students, on the other hand, are shopping the Internet for textbooks.

We love textbooks. We love their in-depth research, their thoughtful writing and editing, their usefulness in training up the next generation of young scholars, their sheer heft and weightiness — even their generally no-frills covers appeal to us, thanks in part to our latent Protestant sensibilities.

This month on Eerdmans.com, we’re featuring best-selling textbooks for the 2014-2015 year, as reported by field sales manager Bob Gaudet. (Note: if you’re a professor wondering whether Eerdmans books would be a good fit for your classroom — and we’re pretty sure they would! — you should definitely get in touch with Bob.)

Visit our website to browse the full collection, or read on discover five great books . . .

Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology
Third Edition
Daniel L. Migliore

Faith Seeking Understanding

Faith Seeking Understanding

A superb, standard Christian theology text for nearly a quarter century, Daniel Migliore’s Faith Seeking Understanding explores all of the major Christian doctrines in freshly contemporary ways. This third edition offers new FOR FURTHER READING suggestions at the end of each chapter, a substantial expansion of the glossary, and new material incorporated throughout, including a section on Christians and Muslims.

Further, the three imaginary theological dialogues culminating the book — pointedly playful exchanges that have delighted countless readers — are here joined by a fourth dialogue, between Karl Barth and Friedrich Nietzsche, on atheism. All in all, a new generation of students, pastors, and Christian educators, eager to better understand the rich heritage, central themes, and contemporary challenges of Christian theology, will find both guidance and stimulation in Migliore’s updated work.

“Presents theology in language that can be readily grasped by the theological beginner. Hurrah!”
Theology Today

Read more about this book in an EerdWord guest post by Daniel Migliore.

Distance in Preaching: Room to Speak, Space to Listen
Michael A. Brothers

Distance in Preaching

Distance in Preaching

Based on several years of teaching and careful observation in preaching classes, this book by Michael Brothers explores the benefits of “distance” in preaching — and listening to — sermons.

Having noticed that sermon listeners generally want to be given room for their own interpretations and experiences, Brothers argues that critical and aesthetic distance as a hermeneutical tool is vital to hearing the gospel today and should be intentionally employed in sermon construction and delivery. He explains this “distance” in the field of homiletics, equips teachers and students of preaching to evaluate the function of distance in sermons, and encourages preachers to practice the use of distance in their preaching.

“Here is an invigorating treatment of an aesthetic principle that has profoundly shaped homiletical practice across generations. You want to learn what makes preaching effective? Study this book.”
— Richard F. Ward, Phillips Theological Seminary

Pandora’s Box Opened: An Examination and Defense of Historical-Critical Method and Its Master Practitioners
Roy A. Harrisville

Pandora's Box Opened

Pandora’s Box Opened

For many, the historical-critical method has released a host of threats to Christian faith and confession. In Pandora’s Box Opened, however, Roy Harrisville argues that despite the evils brought upon biblical interpretation by the historical-critical method, there is still hope for it as a discipline.

Harrisville begins by describing the emergence and use of the historical-critical method. He then attends to the malaise that has come over the method, which he says still persists. Finally, Harrisville commends the historical-critical method, though shorn of its arrogance. He claims that the method and all its users comprise a “Pandora’s Box” that, when opened, releases “a myriad other pains,” but hope still remains.

“Roy Harrisville has long studied biblical interpretation and thought much about it. This book presents the results — insights both deeply thoughtful and comprehensive in scope. Congratulations are in order.”
— Robert W. Jenson, Institute for Theological Inquiry

The Depth of the Human Person: A Multidisciplinary Approach
Michael Welker, editor

The Depth of the Human Person

The Depth of the Human Person

This volume brings together leading theologians, biblical scholars, scientists, philosophers, ethicists, and others to explore the multidimensionality and depth of the human person. Moving away from dualistic (mind-body, spirit-flesh, naturalmental) anthropologies, the book’s contributors examine human personhood in terms of a complex flesh-body-mind-heart-soul-conscience-reason-spirit spectrum.

The Depth of the Human Person begins with a provocative essay on the question “Why is personhood conceptually difficult?” It then rises to the challenge of relating theological contributions on the subject to various scientific explorations. Finally, the book turns to contemporary theological-ethical challenges, discussing such subjects as human dignity, embodiment, gender stereotypes, and human personhood at the edges of life.

Contributors: Maria Antonaccio, Warren S. Brown, Philip Clayton, Volker Henning Drecoll, Markus Höfner, Origen V. Jathanna, Malcolm Jeeves, Isolde Karle, Eiichi Katayanagi, Andreas Kemmerling, Stephan Kirste, Bernd Oberdorfer, John C. Polkinghorne, Jeffrey P. Schloss, Andreas Schüle, William Schweiker, Gerd Theissen, Günter Thomas, Frank Vogelsang, Michael Welker.

Check out the Table of Contents for this book here on EerdWord.

Wisdom’s Wonder: Character, Creation, and Crisis in the Bible’s Wisdom Literature
William P. Brown

Wisdom's Wonder

Wisdom’s Wonder

Wisdom’s Wonder offers a fresh reading of the Hebrew Bible’s wisdom literature with a unique emphasis on “wonder” as the framework for understanding biblical wisdom. William Brown argues that wonder effectively integrates biblical wisdom’s emphasis on character formation and its outlook on creation, breaking an impasse that has plagued recent wisdom studies.

Drawing on various disciplines, from philosophy to neuroscience, Brown discovers new distinctions and connections in Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. Each book is studied in terms of its view of moral character and creation, as well as in terms of the social or intellectual crisis each book identifies.

“This book is no mere `second edition’ of William Brown’s earlier Character in Crisis. While bits and pieces of that book remain, the whole has been completely reenvisioned: character is here combined with creation under the rubric of wonder. In the process, Brown has reconceived the very nature of wisdom itself as ‘fear seeking understanding.’ In bravely rethinking both his own project and wisdom more broadly, Brown not only discusses the sages but proves that he himself is one.”
— Brent A. Strawn, Emory University

Learn more about this book in an EerdWord guest post by William P. Brown.

Click to browse the rest of our featured collection of best-selling textbooks — and be sure to check back with us next week, when we’ll be launching a textbook giveaway here on EerdWord. 

Cheryl C. D. Hughes

Cheryl C. D. Hughes

Cheryl C. D. Hughes is professor of humanities and religious studies at Tulsa Community College, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and author of the new book Katharine Drexel: The Riches-to-Rags Story of an American Catholic Saint.

* * *

The promise the American Dream once held out to immigrants was that with hard work, determination, and a little luck, they, too, could prosper and turn their relative rags into relative riches. The Gospel of Prosperity seemed to be in the very air one breathed in nineteenth and early twentieth century America. The work ethic and its attendant Gospel of Prosperity, according to Max Weber, were at the very core of Protestant Christianity; though in America one did not have to be Protestant to imbibe. Hindus from India, Muslims from the Middle East, Jews and Catholics from Europe, and those with no faith at all bought into the accumulation of wealth and material goods as the manifestations of having “made it” in America. Even today, wealth is still the way we tend to keep score.

Katharine Drexel was born into the very top of the American Dream. One could say she floated on its clouds for the first third of her life. When her father died in 1886, his was the largest estate ever probated in the state of Pennsylvania. As young heiresses, Katharine and her two sisters were perhaps the most eligible unmarried women in America. Yet Katharine, after a great deal of thought and prayer, walked away from her riches and chose a life of rags. She gave away her ball gowns and jewelry and put on the plain black and white habit of a Catholic nun. Throughout the long years of her missionary career caring for Native Americans and Blacks she was often noted for her patched and worn shoes and habits. Still, although she was literally dressed in rags, it is impossible to think she considered herself as “poor.”

Katharine Drexel

Katharine Drexel

She may have taken a vow of poverty when she founded the Order of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People, but I doubt she ever thought of herself as anything but rich in the things that really mattered to her.

Katharine impresses me as one of the most joyful, happy people I have ever encountered. It was in the Blessed Sacrament and in tending to the needs of the least of the Lord’s brothers here in America that she found her real wealth. She may have spent her youth wearing the silks and satins of a little rich girl, and I cannot say she was unhappy about it, but it was in her patched habit as a Bride of Christ that she found her true happiness and her greatest wealth.

Katharine’s story calls into serious question America’s obsession with the gospel of wealth and prosperity. In the words of Pope John Paul II, Katharine was unconcerned with “having” and utterly consumed with “being”: being in imitation of Christ. As we think about the dream of moving from relative rags to relative riches, we should consider the example of Saint Katharine Drexel, whose riches-to-rags life led to sainthood and eternal happiness.

Click to order Katharine Drexel: The Riches-to-Rags Story of an American Catholic Saint.



The Notorious Isaac Earl and His Scouts

The Notorious Isaac Earl and His Scouts

The following excerpt is taken from Gordon L. Olson’s new book The Notorious Isaac Earl and His Scouts: Union Soldiers, Prisoners, Spies, which Perry D. Jamieson has called “a refreshing and fascinating study of a remarkable Civil War leader.”

* * *

Through a moonless September 1864 night, the steamboat Ida May, its lights doused and windows covered, slid quietly down the Mississippi River, past sandbars and floating debris, as its captain carefully navigated the broad river’s ever-changing channels. Aboard were 1st Lieutenant Isaac Newton Earl and his Special Scouts — thirty Union soldiers whose mission was to patrol the Mississippi River, gathering information about Confederate troop activity, and to “break up smuggling or any other mischief that may be going on,” making arrests and forcing guerrillas and outlaws to seek refuge away from the river.

 On this night Earl’s Scouts’ destination was St. Joseph, Louisiana, a small village on the west bank of the great river, about fifty miles south of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Laying out their town around a village green, St. Joseph’s founders had sought to replicate a quiet New-England-style town. Instead, by 1864 it had become a hotbed for guerrillas and smugglers, among them a plantation owner named John Powell, who regularly ferried Confederate personnel, correspondence, and contraband goods back and forth across the Mississippi.

At about 2:00 a.m., the Ida May’s captain eased his vessel against the bank a few miles above St. Joseph and lowered the gangplank. As soon as their bridge to shore touched earth, Earl and his waiting scouts led their horses off the boat and set off at a brisk trot for St. Joseph, reaching the town less than an hour later. Without slowing, they wheeled right and rode five more miles west to Powell’s home, where they surprised the still-sleeping homeowner and two other men, and seized a “half bushel” of Confederate mail. After securing their prisoners and the captured mail, Earl and his Scouts continued another mile down the plank road to another house, where they captured a Confederate soldier and three horses. Earl placed both the soldier and the homeowner under arrest, and before going further, he sent his five prisoners and the captured mail back to the Ida May, which in the meantime had proceeded downstream and docked at St. Joseph.

When the detail of Scouts and their prisoners arrived at St. Joseph, they found that the boat’s crew and guards were waiting with more prisoners. Lt. James Butler, of General James Slaughter’s staff, and two others had been captured when they carelessly rode up to the Ida May, unaware that it was a Union vessel and that the men in civilian garb around the boat were Union soldiers and civilian employees of the army.

Meanwhile, with their prisoners and captured mail on their way to the Ida May, Earl and the remaining Scouts rode on through the night. They were now more than ten miles inland and rather than proceed further on the plank road, Earl decided to skirt quietly behind several plantations on a less-used trail. He had been told that about twenty-five Confederates were in the area, and he hoped to catch them unaware. Thus far, Earl and the Scouts had been operating under cover of darkness; now, just as the rising sun was beginning to dispel the darkness, they saw a flickering campfire in front of a distant house. Spurring their mounts forward, advance scouts Newton Culver and Charles Fenlason managed to get between the startled men, who were preparing breakfast in the plantation house’s front yard, and their nearby horses and weapons. With Culver and Fenlason preventing them from reaching their rifles and sabers, which were stacked on the porch, and Earl and the remaining Scouts charging up behind them, the Confederates, who claimed to be “mechanics” (skilled craftsmen) on their way from Georgia to Texas, had little option but to surrender. The Scouts destroyed their prisoners’ rifles, strapped their sabers to their saddles, bound the men and put them aboard their horses, and began leading them back to the Ida May.

As they turned onto the plank road, Earl observed fresh, deep ruts and realized that several heavily loaded wagons had recently passed through, and the Scouts set off after the slow-moving wagons. Little more than a mile down the road, they started hearing the creak and squeak of the wagons ahead of them. Newton Culver and Charles Fenlason were in their usual place as advance riders, and Culver described in his diary what happened next. As he and Fenlason cautiously rounded a bend in the road, they came upon a sleepy horseman riding casually behind the rear of several wagons. Before the rider realized what was happening, he found himself facing Culver’s revolver with no option but to surrender.

Quietly, Culver and Fenlason rode up behind the other guards, capturing them along with the black muleskinners. The six wagons, each pulled by six mules and loaded with wool from Texas, which was to be turned into cloth for the Confederacy, were a serious loss at a time when the Confederacy was undergoing debilitating shortages.

The capture of the wagon train marked the completion of a remarkably productive morning. Before their adversaries knew they were in their neighborhood, the night-traveling Scouts had seized a valuable batch of mail, arrested a contingent of soldiers, and then captured a wool wagon train poised to cross the Mississippi River. In raw numbers, the St. Joseph raid netted thirty-five prisoners, nine horses, thirty-six mules and their harnesses, and six wagons loaded with about nine tons of wool. In addition, a collection of official and unofficial Confederate mail was now in Union hands. With jail awaiting them, three of the civilian captives immediately swore an oath of allegiance and were freed; the remaining thirty-two were slated to be turned over to the provost marshal in Natchez, Mississippi, where the Scouts were headquartered.

The Scouts added to their already impressive haul when they discovered a small ferryboat and a skiff partially hidden at the river bank. The two boats were waiting to take the loaded wagons, the mules and their drivers, and the guards across the Mississippi. With the Ida May already packed to the gunwales with captured wool wagons, prisoners, horses and mules, plus the scouts and their horses, there was no room to haul the ferryboat and skiff. Unwilling to leave them on the river bank, Earl ordered them set ablaze, and as the Ida May pulled away from the landing and headed downriver to Natchez, the smaller boats burned in the background.

Click to order Gordon L. Olson’s The Notorious Isaac Earl and His Scouts: Union Soldiers, Prisoners, Spies.

Linda Vigen Phillips

Linda Vigen Phillips

Linda Vigen Phillips is a retired teacher and the author of Crazy, a compelling novel in verse about mental illness. 

* * *

When I heard the tragic news about Robin Williams last week, my heart sank and my brain cried out, “depression strikes again.”

I dashed off a tweet to join thousands of others who felt moved to express immediate shock and sympathy, and then I sat and pondered a while.

It seems to me, even without much digging, that there is a story of suicide and/or homicide related to depression in the news almost daily. I don’t go looking for them, but it’s true that I might be more sensitive to these types of headlines due to my own circumstances.

My mother had bipolar disorder while I was growing up in the sixties, but I was well into adulthood before a doctor helped me determine this from her medical records. I was never given an official diagnosis or told why she rarely left the house, underwent numerous shock treatments, took heavy medication, and did not cope well with life’s ups and downs. In those days, perhaps the dark ages of mental health care, doctors said she was having “nervous breakdowns,” which they attempted to manage with a heavy-duty regimen of anti-psychotic drugs.



The two emotions that dogged me the most as a young girl were fear (that whatever was happening to my mother would happen to me) and shame. It was the era before talk-therapy, and no one discussed my mother’s illness either inside or outside the family. I turned to writing poetry as a way to process what I was experiencing and feeling, and most recently those poems have resulted in my debut book, Crazy, a YA novel in verse that explores a teenage girl’s coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness.  Without giving away any spoilers I can tell you that, although thoughts of suicide lurk throughout the book, it is not the victor.

As difficult as my early years were, I have many reasons to be thankful. My mother did not try to harm herself or anyone else, and thanks to advances in psychotropic medication, her last years were her best. My sister and I have dodged the genetic bullet, and both of us have lived productive lives without being encumbered by depression or mental illness.

But news that the demon won out over Williams, just as it did with Philip Seymour Hoffman only six months prior, haunts me. As I shout out the “why’s” once again, I get no easy answers. I am left only with a chilling reminder of the extraordinary power of depression and addiction, even in this day of medical advances that can save a victim of Ebola.

But therein also lies the hope. Mental illnesses are diseases that can be every bit as catastrophic as cancer or rampant viruses, and every tragedy that occurs because of a mental illness should spur on research, more and better hospital and treatment centers, and further eradication of the stigmas that still exist today.

Mental health expert Dr. Jeff Gardere explains that depression and substance abuse among performers is more common than one may think, and Williams was no exception. “He was a lifelong addict. It’s a lifelong illness that you take a day at a time . . . this is a medical problem, and we have to stop seeing people who have drug addiction as evil, bad, weak people,” says Gardere.

The statistics can either be daunting or the determining factor towards positive action on the part of the medical, political, and social service organizations. According to an August 13 editorial in the Charlotte Observer, “about 13% of people will suffer depression at some point in their lives. An estimated 90% of those who commit suicide suffer from a mental illness. The World Health Organization says depression will be the world’s leading cause of disability and death by 2030.”

The truth is, depression and addiction are both treatable illnesses, and they need not be terminal. Sufferers must deal with them daily, but so must a person with diabetes or a heart condition. Perhaps Art Buchwald put it best.  “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

If you know someone suffering from any mental illness, reach out to them today and say something hopeful, or better yet, spread a little silliness in honor of Robin Williams.

Click to visit Linda Vigen Phillips’s website or to learn more about her debut novel Crazy, or watch the book trailer below.