Anton Wessels

Anton Wessels

Anton Wessels is an ordained Presbyterian minister, professor emeritus of religion at the Free University of Amsterdam, and author of the new book The Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur’an: Three Books, Two Cities, One Tale.

 * * *

Just as Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities provided insight into two important yet opposing cities — Paris and London — in the time of the French Revolution, so also can the Bible and the Qur’an be read together as a kind of Tale of Two Cities for the “revolutionary” world of today, torn apart by religious terrorism and sectarian violence.

These three books (the Old and New Testament and the Qur’an) also tell us a single tale of two cities: the city of justice and peace on the one hand and the city of wrong on the other. In the Old Testament, the two cities of good and evil are represented by Jerusalem and Babel, respectively. In the Qur’an, Mecca stands as the city of injustice over against Medina, the city of light.

Many today claim that religion — Christianity and Islam most especially, thanks to their painful histories of crusade and jihad — is to blame for all most (if not all) wars throughout the history of humankind. They say that the Holy Books of these faiths — particularly the Qur’an — should be forbidden. After all, they claim, haven’t Jews, Christians and Muslims used their Scriptures as weapons against each other in both heated polemics and open warfare?

Perhaps this has at times been so. I hold to my deep conviction, however, that these three books can and should be read and understood together by Jews, Christians, and Muslims as one tale.

After all, the major prophetic figures in both the Bible and the Qur’an — Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad — were each commanded to speak out against unjust leaders and break with the injustice in their respective “cities.”

The Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur'an

The Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur’an

Abraham had to break with Nimrod, king of the oppressive empires of Assur and Babel in Mesopotamia, take his family, and go.

Moses was called to stand up to Pharaoh, break with his injustice, and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.

Jesus opposed the unjust spiritual and political leaders in Jerusalem, connected as they were with the imperial power of Rome, and inspired his followers to “shake the dust off their sandals,” leave their homeland, and “make disciples of all nations.”

Muhammad, too, preached against the wicked and egotistic leaders of Mecca and eventually had to flee that city.

The expression that is used for that “breaking with” and “leaving and liberating from” in the Bible is “exodus.” In the Qur’an the word translated as “emigration” (hijra) means much the same.

Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad all had to leave the corrupt cities in which they were born and go to the land God would show them: the promised land, the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, the city of light, the city of the future that surely will come on earth.

For me the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides (1138-1204), who was born in Moorish Spain and died in Cairo, is a source of inspiration. He lived and worked in a world dominated by Muslims, and he thought deeply about the meanings of the two other traditions (Christianity and Islam) that had grown out of his own Jewish religion. He became a guide for the Jews of his time (and after!), showing how adherents of all three faiths could understand and respect each other’s distinct contributions.

Maimonides declared in his Guide for the Perplexed: “As a whole, Muslims are not idol worshipers, and they proclaim the complete unity of God in the proper way.” Reflecting on the relationship to the Christians and Muslims, he wrote:

“It is beyond the human mind to fathom the designs of the Creator; for our ways are not his ways, neither are our thoughts His thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). All these matters relating to Jesus of Nazareth and the Ishmaelite (Mohammed) who came after him, served to clear the way for King Messiah, to prepare the whole world to worship God with one accord, as it is written, For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord to serve Him shoulder to shoulder (Zephaniah 3:9).”

It is of great importance, I believe, for Jews, Christians, and Muslims to read the Torah, the Gospels, and the Qur’an together and attempt to understand them as much as possible in association with one another. These three books demand answers from one another. They must be allowed to interrogate one another. They should constantly be brought into conversation with one another.

Only then will we begin to understand fully God’s great “tale of two cities” for humankind.

Click to order The Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur’an: Three Books, Two Cities, One Tale.

Good morning! Is anyone else still feeling groggy after the time change this weekend?

We must confess: it is a little bizarre to see daylight until nearly 8:00 p.m. while we still have two feet of packed snow on the ground. Although the weather has been softening — a little — in our part of the world over the past few days, winter certainly isn’t over yet. 

Thankfully, neither is the Eerdmans Author Interview Series. With three interviews left after today, we should have more than enough stimulating footage to tide us over until the first warm days of spring finally arrive. (Knock on wood!)

This morning’s video features Michael F. Bird, who is lecturer in theology at Ridley Melbourne Mission and Ministry College in Australia (where it’s currently 21°C/69°F under clear skies) and author of The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus.

The Gospel of the Lord

The Gospel of the Lord

In The Gospel of the Lord Michael Bird describes how the canonical Gospels originated from a process of oral tradition, literary composition, textual development, and reception in the early church with a view to showing what makes them among the most important writings in the New Testament.

Bird explores how the Christian movement shaped the Gospels and, conversely, how these writings shaped the early church. He develops a distinctive evangelical-and-critical approach to the Gospels, deals with the Synoptic problem head-on, and explains the significance of the fourfold Gospel canon. The book includes a number of helpful excursuses on related topics.

All in all, Bird’s Gospel of the Lord clarifies the often-confusing debates over the origins of the Gospels and offers informed and soundly argued explanations that account for the content of the Gospels in the context of the wider Graeco-Roman world.

Click to order Michael F. Bird’s The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus.

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.

New Releases

For Freedom or Bondage? A Critique of African Pastoral Practices
by Esther E. Acolatse

A Pond Full of Ink
written by Annie M. G. Schmidt, illustrated by Sieb Posthuma, translated by David Colmer

Christian Higher Education
by Joel Carpenter, Perry L. Glanzer, and Nicholas S. Lantinga

News from Eerdmans . . .

  • We released an interview with Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Professor of Systematic Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary.

. . . 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:

Addison Hodges Hart

Addison Hodges Hart

Addison Hodges Hart is a retired pastor and college chaplain and author of the new book Strangers and Pilgrims Once More: Being Disciples of Jesus in a Post-Christendom World.

* * *

There is a vital distinction to be made between Christianity and Christendom. Simply put, Christianity is the faith of those committed as disciples to Jesus Christ, and this faith began with his life, ministry, death and resurrection. Christendom, on the other hand, can be said to have begun with the Roman emperor Constantine in circa 315 AD and to have been solidified under Theodosius in the 380s. One key turning point, and a tragic one in our history, occurred with the first execution of heretics in 385. For the first time, though sadly not the last, those claiming allegiance to the Prince of Peace shed blood in his name over matters of external doctrine.

Christendom, simply put, was the merging of church and state as mutually supportive entities. It lasted for approximately seventeen centuries. In that time all the major institutional expressions of Christian faith — Catholic, Orthodox, Oriental, Protestant — existed, thrived, and evangelized within, or with the support of, various models of “Christendom.” It has been an age with a mixed legacy, much good and much bad.

And, in our time, with only one or two exceptions, Christendom is rapidly disappearing — where it hasn’t already vanished.

In other words, Christians can no longer look to their social or political institutions to uphold their faith and practice, their former social privileges, and their moral standards. We have been “at home” in Christendom for 1,700 years, but, as the title of my forthcoming book puts it, we are now — whether we have acknowledged it yet or not — “strangers and pilgrims once more.” The sooner we face this fact, the sooner we can be about the business of rediscovering who we really are and what we must be in this new epoch of the church’s life. The realization may be disturbing, but it also offers us new challenges and — potentially — a renewed understanding of discipleship. We have much to salvage from the age of Christendom that was beautiful and good. We have much, as well, to abandon — things which did nothing to honor our Lord, and which in fact often betrayed his message.

My new book, Strangers and Pilgrims Once More: Being Disciples of Jesus in a Post-Christendom World, examines five areas of Christian life (there might have been more) in light of the demands of this evolving historical situation. I have chosen a sic et non (“yes and no”) approach, in search of a reasonable and faithful via media as we move forward together.

Strangers and Pilgrims Once More

Strangers and Pilgrims Once More

First, I argue, we must relearn the crucial difference between Christianity as a radical commitment to Christ and his way, and Christendom as an ultimately futile attempt to mix the kingdom of God with the political systems “of this world.”

Second, we must confirm our foundational need for sound dogma (basic creedal affirmations which indicate where truth can be found) while freeing ourselves from shallow, external, and unnecessarily divisive dogmatism.

Third, we should come to appreciate our Bible for what it is — its history of development, its canonical shape and rationale, its human influences as well as its inspired nature, its developing testimony to a maturing vision of God which culminates in the Word made flesh, and the way in which it reveals our identity as the community of Jesus’ disciples.

Fourth, we should recognize anew — after generations of Christian divisions rooted in the twists and turns of the history of Christendom — that our unity as Christians is a sacramental fact before it is a matter of full doctrinal agreement. We are baptized into Christ and participate in the Eucharist, and our spiritual communion is therefore intact despite our stubborn divisions. How can we recognize our sacramental unity and cease using our sacraments as markers of disunity? What should the secular world see when it sees us? Communion or division?

Fifth and lastly, our evangelism should be rooted in an appealing, loving, humble, and non-polemical communal life. The world needs to see that we actually are what we profess, rather than people who profess what we do not practice. Faced with a cultural and societal context which not only no longer affirms Christian beliefs but at times openly attacks them, we must learn how to engage the world with both the “wisdom of serpents” and the “harmlessness of doves.” We need also to cooperate with those of other faiths, since they too are targeted by our secular age’s burgeoning anti-religiousness. How do we, then, present good news, and not defensive argumentativeness, in the public square?

All this only begins to scratch the surface of the concerns presented in the book. The need is urgent that — both for our own sake and the world’s — we seek and discover a new vision of ancient discipleship for our present post-Christendom age.

Click to order Addison Hodges Hart’s Strangers and Pilgrims Once More: Being Disciples of Jesus in a Post-Christendom World.

Today marks the beginning of the penitential season of Lent. While we acknowledge that not all Christians observe Lent, we know also that many Christians do. In light of this, and in keeping with the spirit of this sacred season, we’ll be sharing devotional excerpts from a number of new (or soon-forthcoming) books each Wednesday throughout the forty days of Lent. 

This morning’s reading — an intercession for Ash Wednesday that takes the six devotional acts of Lent and turns them each into a prayer — comes from Samuel Wells and Abigail Kocher’s Shaping the Prayers of the People.   

We hope you are challenged and uplifted by this prayer — and by each of our upcoming Lenten Midweek Readings. 

* * *

Shaping the Prayers of the People

Shaping the Prayers of the People

Merciful God, teach us to fast. Give us strength to resist our greed and the patience to withstand our passing need. Help us to stand in sol­idarity with those who don’t get to choose. And help us to be hungry for the right things — for righteousness, for justice and peace.

Faithful God, teach us to pray. Give us grace to sit still. Help us to value time with you above all other time. Show us how to find and keep a routine and pattern of life so that you are the ebb and flow of our every thought and word and deed.

Generous God, teach us to give money away. As you have invested your whole destiny in us, let our giving reflect our gratitude and our longing to be like you. Show us the person, the institution, the cause to which you will us to be bound by bonds of finance and affection.

Truthful God, teach us to examine ourselves. Search inside our hearts and take away those things that don’t belong there. Help us to search inside your heart and put the things we find there inside our own.

Revealing God, teach us to read your Scripture. Show us the parts of your story we forget and open to us the aspects of your purposes we fail to comprehend. Make your word a lantern to our feet and a light to our path.

Reconciling God, come and heal our broken relationships. This Lent show us one enemy who can become a friend. Introduce us to a stranger who opens to us a window into your kingdom. And teach us when and how to say the word, “Sorry.” Amen.

Click to learn more about Samuel Wells and Abigail Kocher’s Shaping the Prayers of the People or to read a EerdWord post by editor Tom Raabe introducing the book. 

Ruth Everhart

Ruth Everhart

Ruth Everhart is a Presbyterian minister and author of Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land. Beginning tomorrow, she’s teaming up with Monasteries of the Heart to offer a free ecourse entitled “A Lenten Pilgrimage.” Today, she shares the story behind this ecumenical partnership as she invites readers to join her on a virtual journey to the Holy Land in Lent.

* * *

Why are Catholics better at pilgrimage than Protestants?

Crucifixes. Icons. Relics. Incense. Perhaps these holy objects are the reasons that Catholics are comfortable with Holy Land pilgrimage while Protestants shy away. After all, our iconoclast forebears dispatched with these during the Reformation.

Perhaps it’s the saints that cause us discomfort. A pilgrim encounters a saint around every corner in the Holy Land — especially St. Helena, who seems to have left her fingerprints at every sacred site. (I’ve noticed that we Protestant clergy are more comfortable using the word “Christendom” to describe its fall than its rise, which Helena represents.)

Perhaps it’s history itself that makes us squirm. A Holy Land pilgrim can’t help but encounter the lingering scars of the Medieval Crusades. Who wants to be reminded that European invaders once galloped across Israel and Palestine, leaving trails of blood in their wake? That history is an embarrassment to Christians of every stripe.

Or perhaps you’re protesting my opening question as unfair. Maybe you think Protestants are every bit as good at pilgrimage as Catholics.

I’d like to think you’re right. But I can’t help noticing that Protestants — especially progressive Protestants — simply don’t prioritize, or value, a trip to the Holy Land the way Catholics (or even Evangelical Christians) do, or have done historically.

Let me recount my evidence, which is entirely anecdotal.

In 2009, I was recruited to participate in a documentary-making pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The goal of the documentary was to explore whether pilgrimage could help unite an ecumenical group of clergy. Although our group included representatives from across the Protestant spectrum, there was no Catholic presence.

At the time, curious, I asked the filmmaker why this was so. He said that, although he tried hard, he wasn’t able to recruit a priest.

“Aren’t Catholic clergy interested in pilgrimage?” I asked.

“They sure are,” he said. “They’re so interested that every priest goes on an extensive pilgrimage as part of their spiritual formation. I couldn’t find a priest who had any need to go on a trip like this. They’ve already been to the Holy Land, funded by their diocese.”

I found that fact fascinating. Every one of us that chose to participate faced difficulty in procuring institutional support for our pilgrimages. We needed time and money, the two things that seem to be in short supply for every minister and every church. Sending a minister to the Holy Land was extremely low on the priority list.

During the pilgrimage, I took note of the Crusader fortresses and carved crosses, along with the prevalence of candles, incense and Masses. None of these were familiar to me. Raised in the Christian Reformed Church and now a proud Presbyterian, I am still a daughter of the Reformation. Among other things, the reformers did away with these unnecessary “trappings.”

Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land

Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land

After the pilgrimage I wrote a book about the experience. To my surprise, Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land found a ready audience among Catholic readers. They seemed more immediately receptive than Protestant audiences to the book’s premise, quicker to understand the reasons that people endure the dust and heat, and even the potential danger, of Holy Land pilgrimage. If they hadn’t been on pilgrimage themselves, they were at least well-acquainted with the practice, and aspired to go. It has been an incredible joy to meet so many of my Catholic readers.

Our common interest in pilgrimage, in fact, has led me into an uncommon project. I am now partnering with the Benedictine Sisters of Erie and their online community Monasteries of the Heart to offer a virtual Lenten retreat.

People who have joined Monasteries of the Heart (which, two years into its existence, already has over 6,000 members) can choose to participate in a number of virtual retreats. My offering is called “A Lenten Pilgrimage.” Retreat participants will receive a brief daily reflection written by me, along with a weekly video produced by the Sisters. The videos are meditative, and they feature a reading from a Psalm of Ascent accompanied by pictures from the Holy Land. In addition, retreat participants can go online to read and comment in a moderated forum whenever they like.

Membership in Monasteries of the Heart is free and open to all. Once inside MOH, participants have access to a host of material in addition to virtual retreats. Much of the content is written by the most well known of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Joan Chittister (who, incidentally, is also an Eerdmans author).

Do you have friends, family members, or parishioners for whom Monasteries of the Heart would be valuable?

Are you looking for a suitable spiritual discipline, one you can do daily and easily with an email reminder?

I hope you’ll join me on this Lenten pilgrimage!

Click to learn more about Ruth Everhart’s ecourse “A Lenten Pilgrimage,” to order Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land, to explore Monasteries of the Heart, or to browse Joan Chittister’s books with Eerdmans. 

Another day, another blizzard.

Now enjoying what feels like the umpteenth polar vortex of the season, parts of West Michigan woke up to record-setting low temperatures again this morning. (If we’re going to be miserable anyway, we might as well break a few records while we’re at it!)

In need (as we are) of a few minutes of stimulating distraction from our present distress, we’re especially thankful this morning for the latest video in the Eerdmans Author Interview Series.

Today’s interview features Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, who is professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California; docent of ecumenics at the University of Helsinki, Finland; and author of the five-volume series A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World. (The first volume in the series, Christ and Reconciliation, was published in 2013; volume two, Trinity and Revelation, will be released in April.)

Trinity and Revelation

Trinity and Revelation

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen’s Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World is a five-volume project that aims to develop a new approach to and method of doing Christian theology in a pluralistic world at the beginning of the third millennium. With the metaphor of hospitality serving as the framework for his discussion, Kärkkäinen engages Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism in sympathetic and critical mutual dialogue while remaining robustly Christian in his convictions.

Never before has a fullscale doctrinal theology been attempted in such a wide and deep dialogical mode.

In the soon-forthcoming second volume, Trinity and Revelation,  Kärkkäinen develops a constructive theology of triune revelation and the triune God in dialogue with Christian tradition, with contemporary theology in its global and contextual diversity, and with other major living faiths.

Click to read an EerdWord blog post by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen introducing his “Theology for the Post-World” or to order the first two volumes in the series: Christ and Reconciliation and Trinity and Revelation

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.

New Releases

Abraham Kuyper: A Pictorial Biography
by Jan de Bruijn

News from Eerdmans . . .

. . . 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:

Two Little Birds

Two Little Birds

For those of us living in the Midwest, this has been the coldest, snowiest, most brutal winter in a generation — and it just won’t quit. With days to go before the end of February, the only hopeful sign of spring we’ve seen so far is the birds, a few of whom have already bravely started on their seasonal treks north in spite of the awful weather.

They’re a welcome sight to winter-weary eyes, and, as children’s author and illustrator Mary Newell DePalma is quick to remind us, “migratory birds are amazing.” 

Inspired to create a book celebrating these audacious travelers, DePalma says she “wrote and illustrated a simple, joyful story about two little birds who follow their natural instincts — and their own sense of adventure — on an exciting voyage through storms, across plains and oceans, and back again.”

Watch the adorable trailer for DePalma’s new book below.

Click to order Mary Newell DePalma’s Two Little Birds.

William P. Brown

William P. Brown

William P. Brown is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia, and author of the new book Wisdom’s Wonder: Character, Creation, and Crisis in the Bible’s Wisdom Literature.

* * *

The final stanza of that great Wesleyan hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” concludes with the climactic words “lost in wonder, love, and praise.” Today, losing wonder seems more the norm. The reasons are legion: economic uncertainty, divisive politics, polarizing discourse, political gridlock, racial strife, and mounting environmental crises. And what little is left of our capacity to wonder is ceded over to the multibillion-dollar entertainment industry. Fear and fatigue have all but replaced love and wonder.

What’s more, we tend to think of wonder as immature. Somehow we adults have deluded ourselves into thinking that wonder is reserved only for children. Wonder is something we outgrow, to be replaced by knowledge and wisdom. But the thing is: wisdom has all to do with sustaining a sense of wonder.

Definitions of “wonder” vary:

Wonder clearly covers a wide range of nuance. It can be destabilizing and renewing, disorienting and reorienting. Put simply, though, wonder is what takes your breath away and gives it back. In common with all experiences of wonder is what wonder does to the one who experiences it: wonder places you on the boundary between fear and fascination, between awe and inquiry, between perplexity and curiosity.

Wisdom's Wonder

Wisdom’s Wonder

As Plato recognized, wonder lies at the root of wisdom (Theaetetus 155d). It elicits the yearning for wisdom and at the same time sustains wisdom. Wonder even helps wisdom hit the reset button when new and startling discoveries are encountered.

In biblical scholarship, the notion of wonder provides the missing link between two very different yet entirely legitimate perspectives on biblical wisdom: creation and moral character. For the biblical sages, the world was their classroom and shaping the will was their goal. The connection between the two, however, has been something of a mystery for biblical interpreters.

If one could discover the sapiential link between world and will, the nexus between creation and character, then one would have come upon a common framework — a hermeneutical lens, no less — by which to understand biblical wisdom most fully. To discover that connection would, in my estimation, constitute nothing less than a eureka moment in the study of the wisdom literature.

The books of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes each illustrate, in their own ways, the formative power of wonder in the ongoing quest for wisdom. Wonder, for example, lies at the heart of the so-called motto of Proverbs: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (9:10a; cf. 1:7a; Psalm 111:10).

Such fear doesn’t take flight or put up a fight but ventures forth to learn, to risk, to love. It is not the kind of fear that causes one to cower before God’s presence. Instead, it impels one to be a responsible, joyful steward of God’s mysteries, of God’s wonders (1 Cor. 4:1).

One could say, with a little help from St. Anselm, that wisdom is “fear seeking understanding”; it is the kind of fear that draws one into greater knowledge and understanding, including knowledge of God. Wisdom, in other words, is wonder seeking understanding.

Job’s journey is an odyssey from great suffering to ineffable awe, from wound to wonder, and in the end wisdom is his gain, the wisdom of the wild. In Ecclesiastes, wonder takes a decidedly destabilizing turn, generating a host of questions and doubts concerning life’s purpose, enough to make one’s head swim. Yet the ancient sage finds amid the perplexities what it is that makes life worth living: the wonder of God’s simple gifts of sustenance.

All three wisdom books present very different profiles of wonder, and hence quite different understandings of wisdom. But all three also acknowledge that without wonder, wisdom withers. For readers today, the biblical sages espouse the kind of wonder that overcomes fear, stirs the imagination, inspires wisdom, and sustains the living of these days.

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

A Pond Full of Ink

A Pond Full of Ink

One of EBYR’s newest releases — A Pond Full of Ink — is a rollicking collection of poems for children by the beloved Dutch poet Annie M. G. Schmidt, whimsically illustrated by Sieb Posthuma and translated by David Colmer.

Inspired by Schmidt’s playful wit — and invigorated, too, by “the bracing spirit of academic overdigestion of literature” — Internet marketing assistant Jacob Thielman recently sent us a favorite poem from the book, replete with his own humorous annotations.

(For greatest effect, we recommend that you read the poem through once on its own, then reread it slowly, referencing Jacob’s footnotes as you go.)

* * *

The Man Who Writes Fairy Tales

A fairy tale author I know1
starts work every day when the roosters crow. 2

He writes very quickly, he writes without hitches3
about fairies and elves and hobgoblins and witches.

He writes about princesses, princes, and kings4
and keeps going till six when the dinner bell rings. 5

The next morning he’s back6 when the sky’s turning blue.
An inkpot’s too little, so what does he do? 7

8At the foot of his garden there’s a pond full of ink.
The blackbirds all gather around it to drink. 9

And whenever that writer is at a loose end, 10
he goes down to that pond to refill his pen.

He’s made up ten thousand stories already, 11
12and has plenty more — he’s constant and steady.

And if he keeps writing till the day that he dies,
perhaps he’ll have written that pond of his dry. 13

"The Man Who Writes Fairy Tales"

Jacob Thielman

Jacob Thielman


1 This first line is the same cadence as that of a limerick, though the rest is not. Were I rewriting this poem as a limerick, the next line would be, “Whose surname just might have been Poe.”

2 This line marks the poem as a work of fiction. Fairy tale authors have no reason at all to get up early. Unless, of course, they write fairy tales in their heads while daydreaming at work, in which case they probably won’t have a reason to get up early for much longer.

3 This is writer is clearly single — “unhitched,” as it were.

4 Princesses, but not queens. This doubtless suggests some sort of tragic relationship between the fairy tale writer and his mother . . .

5 . . . which can’t be all that bad, since she’s still cooking for him.

6 Apparently knocked out cold from the heaviness of the dinner. Doubtless something with lots of gravy and red meat. Tiramisu for dessert, obviously. Is anyone else a tad peckish?

7 Originally published as a two-part cliff-hanger, this is where the part one of the poem ended in the prestigious Periodical Whoppers Monthly vol. 20 issue 4. It was picked up again the next month.

8 Note number 7 was a lie. There may have been other lies before note 7.

9 More evidence that the fairy tale writer is Edgar Allen Poe.

10 Definitely Poe. He could never figure out how to end his stories. Lots of bizarre turns at the end, if you ask me.

11 An incredible proliferation of fairy tales, almost ten times as many as Scheherazade (Just ten more tales, and he would have reached it.) More than 9,000 of Poe’s stories were lost and remain unrecovered.

12 See note 8 in reference to note 11b.

13 At which point we he will have to find a lake full of ink, which will probably land him in trouble with the EPA.

"Aunt Sue and Uncle Steve"

Praise for A Pond Full of Ink:

“Schmidt’s zany characters burst to life in Colmer’s florid translation. Between the ravishingly well-crafted verse, with its tight meter and lithe rhyme, and Posthuma’s stark, richly layered mixed-media illustrations, readers can spend hours savoring each page. Schmidt’s sympathies for the daring and slightly misbehaved shine through in these wry, whimsical sketches. The fairy-tale writer draws from his pond of ink; furniture with legs steps out of the house for a walk; the intolerant Isabella Caramella feeds her hungry pet crocodile, Crabbit; and so on. . . . Heartwarming creative genius abounds here, offering visual and aural pleasures aplenty: not to be missed.”
— Kirkus (starred review)

Click to order Annie M. G. Schmidt’s A Pond Full of Ink, translated from the Dutch by David Collmer and illustrated by Sieb Posthuma.

Is it spring yet? No? What a shame.

Three well-known lines strike us as especially apt in this restless season:

“In your patience possess ye your souls.” — Luke 21:19 (KJV)

“They also serve who only stand and wait.” — John Milton

“I hate waiting.” — Inigo Montoya

Even so, as we bide our time longing for the warmer, greener days we trust will come (eventually), isn’t it comforting to know that we can pass a few minutes each Monday enjoying a new episode in the Eerdmans Author Interview Series?

Today’s video features Andrew T. Lincoln, who is Portland Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Gloucestershire, England, and author of Born of a Virgin? Reconceiving Jesus in the Bible, Tradition, and Theology.

Born of a Virgin?

Born of a Virgin?

Lincoln’s Born of a Virgin? invites ordinary Christians to understand and give honest expression to the problems surrounding the virgin birth — a concept that many Christians are not sure how to handle.

This engaging book begins by discussing why the virgin birth is such a difficult and divisive topic. It then deals with a whole range of issues — literary, historical, and hermeneutical — from a critical yet positive perspective that takes seriously creedal confessions and theological concerns.

As part of his exegetical investigation of the New Testament texts, Lincoln considers the literary genre and distinctive characteristics of the birth narratives as ancient biography. Further, he delineates how changes in our views of history and biography decisively affect any traditional understanding of the significance of an actual virgin birth. He also explores what that means for the authority of Scripture and creed, along with implications for Christology and for preaching and teaching from the birth narratives.

Click to order Andrew T. Lincoln’s Born of a Virgin? Reconceiving Jesus in the Bible, Tradition, and Theology or to visit the official website of the Eerdmans Author Interview Series.

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.

New Releases

The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture

The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture: What the Early Church can Teach Us
by Michael Graves

Dare We Speak of Hope? Searching for a Language of Life in Faith and Politics
by Allan Aubrey Boesak

Holland Michigan: From Dutch Colony to Dynamic City
by Robert P. Swierenga

Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks
by Walter Brueggemann

News from Eerdmans . . .

  • Congratulations to the three winners of our 2013 EBYR Award Winners giveaway!
    • Courtney Kraft
    • Nourhène Ben Abdallah
    • Tina Birkholz
      Keep checking EerdWord and Eerdmans social media for a new giveaway every month!
  • Check out our interview with J. Denny Weaver, the latest in the Eerdmans Author Interview Series.

. . . 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:

Apocalypse against Empire

Apocalypse against Empire

Anathea E. Portier-Young is associate professor of Old Testament at Duke University Divinity School, Durham, North Carolina, and author of Apocalypse against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism, which has just been released in paperback. 

The following excerpt is taken from her introduction to the book.

* * *

In 167 BCE the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes issued an edict that sought to annul the ancestral laws of Judea, proscribing traditional Jewish religion and mandating new religious practice in its place. According to 2 Maccabees, 22,000 Seleucid troops already occupied the city of Jerusalem, and had already massacred and enslaved thousands among its population. Now they would kill any who did not comply with the king’s edict. Many Judeans did comply with Antiochus’s program of terror. In so doing they saved their lives and the lives of their families. Others resisted. They resisted by remaining faithful to the law of Moses, circumcising their children, reading the scrolls, and refusing to eat pork or sacrifice to other gods. They resisted by preaching and teaching, praying, fasting, and dying. These first martyrs of the Jewish faith have inspired generations of Jews and Christians who have told and retold (and relived) their stories of courage and faithfulness. Others resisted with arms, fighting in self-defense and to reclaim their temple and city, ultimately expelling the occupying Seleucid troops from Judea. They succeeded in establishing Judea as a semi-independent nation-state after over four hundred years of colonial rule. Each year Jews around the world celebrate this accomplishment during the festival of Hanukkah.

The reign of Antiochus marked a turning point in the history of Judaism for another reason that, though rarely remarked upon, is no less momentous. For during this period emerged a new literary genre, the historical apocalypse, and with it an apocalyptic worldview and consciousness that would become enormously influential in the history of Judaism and Christianity alike. Why this genre at this moment? What is the relationship between apocalypse and empire?

I argue that the first Jewish apocalypses emerged as a literature of resistance to empire. Empire claimed the power to order the world. It exercised this power through force, but also through propaganda and ideology. Empire manipulated and co-opted hegemonic social institutions to express and reinforce its values and cosmology. Resisting imperial domination required challenging not only the physical means of coercion, but also empire’s claims about knowledge and the world. The first apocalypses did precisely this.

In examining how they resisted empire, this book corrects a common set of misperceptions about apocalypticism and about Judaism in this vital period. It is often thought that early apocalyptic literature represents a flight from reality into fantasy, leading to radical detachment from the world or a disavowal of the visible, embodied realm. It has been imagined that the pseudonymous writers of the apocalypses hid their identities in order to avoid retaliation for their radical critique, or that they belonged to fringe sectarian groups with little connection to mainstream Judaism or centers of influence in Judean society. Nothing could be further from the truth. The early apocalyptic visionaries numbered among Judea’s elite. During the persecution they did not hide, but urged public preaching, aiming to convert a wide audience to their message of faithfulness and hope. And they did not flee painful and even devastating realities, but engaged them head on.

This book is divided into three parts, moving through theory, history, and texts to arrive at an understanding of apocalyptic theology and praxis at this crucial juncture in Judean and Jewish history. Part One (ch. 1), “Theorizing Resistance,” lays out a framework for understanding the meaning of resistance, for identifying and analyzing its objects, domination and hegemony, and for understanding the literary genre apocalypse as resistant counterdiscourse. I lay out this framework at the book’s beginning so that it can inform the analysis in subsequent chapters. Yet I risk losing the energy of readers drawn more to the drama of history and ancient text than to theory. I invite readers less inclined toward theory to read the conclusion of chapter one and proceed to Parts Two and Three.

Part Two, “Seleucid Domination in Judea” (chs. 2–6), traces the history of Hellenistic rule in Judea, with special attention to the era of Seleucid rule from 200 BCE to the persecution in 167 BCE. What was happening in Judea at this time had never happened before. These conditions formed the matrix in which the first apocalypses took shape. A common narrative for this period has painted the early years of Seleucid rule as beneficent and peaceful, suddenly interrupted in 167 BCE by the inexplicable and murderous ravings of a mad king. Another explanation characterizes the conflict as a clash of cultures between Judaism and Hellenism. Locating events in Judea in a wider imperial context, I offer a more nuanced account. I examine the violence of conquest and the stressors of imperial rule in Judea from the very beginning of Hellenistic rule and Seleucid domination. I document interaction between ruler and ruled, and offer new lenses for viewing the encounter between Judaism and Hellenism. I then identify the logic that ultimately led to Antiochus’s edict and persecution of Judeans. He aimed to re-create his own empire through the reconquest, decreation, and re-creation of Judea. Judea’s conquest was carried out not only by force but through a program of state terror. The persecution was not something wholly discontinuous after all, but continued a program of terror already well underway. Understanding the logic of Antiochus’s program of terror and decreation, we perceive not only what the apocalyptic writers were resisting, but how they resisted. Trauma stopped time. With visions of a unified past, present, and future, the historical apocalypses put time back together. With vivid symbols they asserted the integrity of a world that had threatened to shatter. They answered terror with radical visions of hope.

Part Three (chs. 7–10), “Apocalyptic Theologies of Resistance,” treats in detail the three extant historical apocalypses written in Judea during Antiochus’s reign, namely Daniel (ch. 7), the Apocalypse of Weeks (1 En. 93:1-10 + 91:11-17; ch. 9), and the Book of Dreams (1 En. 83–90; ch. 10). Chapter 8 introduces the two Enochic texts by addressing the relationship between Enochic authority in the early Enochic writings and Israel’s other scriptural traditions as well as the epistemological and cosmological claims of the Hellenistic ruling powers. As resistant discourse, each apocalypse countered the totalizing narrative of the Seleucid empire with an even grander total vision of history, cosmos, and the reign of God. But their resistance did not stop at the level of discourse or belief. Vision and praxis shaped one another. From each apocalyptic discourse emerged a program of radical, embodied resistance rooted in covenant theology and shaped by models from Israel’s scriptures as well as new revelatory paradigms.

I examine each text in turn, giving careful attention to the creative interplay between theology, hermeneutics, and ethics, or, put another way, between the framework of belief, practices of reading, and the shaping of resistant action.

Click to order the paperback edition of Anathea Portier-Young’s Apocalypse against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism.

Young Jerry Ford

Young Jerry Ford

In its November/December 2013 issue, Michigan History Magazine published an excerpt from Hendrik Booraem V’s Young Jerry Ford: Athlete and Citizen entitled “Gerald R. Ford: The Scouting Years” (order it here, if you’re interested).

Soon afterward, they received the following response from John Roscoe, which will appear as a letter to the editor in their upcoming May/June 2014 issue — and which they kindly gave us permission to reprint here. 

* * *

Dear Hendrik Booraem V,

I am writing this letter in response to the article you wrote on Gerald R. Ford. I am a Boy Scout and I am currently working on my Communications merit badge. I found your article to be both educational and informative. The one fact that surprised me is that even though Kennedy was well known for his involvement in scouts, Gerald Ford was also involved and was an Eagle Scout. Everyone always says that John F. Kennedy was the first President to be a Scout. That is true however President Ford became a Scout on Dec 17th 1924 5 years before Kennedy. He became an Eagle Scout on Aug 2nd 1927 still 2 years before Kennedy became a scout. I am just glad that I was able to read your article and learn so much more on President Ford who is still the ONLY Eagle Scout President. Knowing that both presidents were active in scouting shows me the numerous possibilities I can obtain with hard work and dedication. Thank you again for providing me with the opportunity to gain this knowledge.

Thanks Again

John Roscoe
Star Scout
Troop 263

Click to order Hendrik Booraem V’s Young Jerry Ford: Athlete and Citizen.

Click to enter our giveaway now!

Click to enter our giveaway.

It’s awards season in America. Whether you dream about the Golden Globes, the Grammys, or the Oscars; the Heisman Trophy or the Super Bowl championship ring; or even Olympic gold, silver, and bronze — this is your time to catch a glimpse of something shiny. (And, given the winter most of us have been having, a little something shiny is a welcome sight.)

At EBYR, our favorite awards tend (of course) to be literary, and we follow them with special interest — not only because we’re unashamed book geeks, but also because our children’s books, though few in number, have won their fair share in recent years.

To celebrate our most recent batch of awards and honors, we’re highlighting a number of award-winning books for young readers on our website in February — and this week on EerdWord, we’re giving away a selection of great titles from this month’s featured collection.

Click to enter our giveaway now for your chance be one of three lucky readers to win two award-winning children’s books of their choosing, or read on to learn more both about our contest and about a few of the books you could choose from if you win.

Three Award-Winning Titles from EBYR

Back to Front and Upside Down

Back to Front and Upside Down
Claire Alexander

Awards and Recognitions:

  • American Library Association (ALA)Schneider Family Book Award, ages 0-10 (2013)
  • International Reading Association (IRA) & Children’s Book Council (CBC)Children’s Choices (2013)
  • Poetry Center at Passaic County CCPaterson Prize for Continued Excellence in Children’s Literature (2013)

It’s the principal Mr. Slipper’s birthday, and while the rest of the class gets busy writing cards for the occasion, Stan becomes frustrated when his letters come out all in a muddle. Stan is afraid to ask for help, until a friend assures him that nobody’s good at everything. And after lots and lots of practice, Stan’s letters come out the right way round and the right way up.

This delightful book deals with a common childhood frustration and will remind readers that practice pays off and that everyone has to ask for help sometimes.

Watch the book trailer or download a printable coloring page

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
Written by Michelle Markel
Illustrated by Amanda Hall

Awards and Recognitions:

  • 2013 PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing
  • Parents’ Choice FoundationParents’ Choice Gold Award
  • New York Public Library Children’s Books 2012: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • Booklist Top Ten Arts Books for Youth (2012)
  • About.comBest Illustrated Children’s Books of the Year
  • Bank Street CollegeBest Children’s Books of the Year
  • Society of Illustrators“The Original Art” annual exhibition
  • Vermont Center for the BookRed Clover Award

Henri Rousseau wanted to be an artist. But he had no formal training. Instead, he taught himself to paint. He painted until the jungles and animals and distant lands in his head came alive on the space of his canvases.

Henri Rousseau endured the harsh critics of his day and created the brilliant paintings that now hang in museums around the world. Michelle Markel’s vivid text, complemented by the vibrant illustrations of Amanda Hall, artfully introduces young readers to the beloved painter and encourages all readers to persevere despite all odds.

View the book trailer or download a printable coloring page

The War within These Walls

The War within These Walls
Written by Aline Sax
Illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki
Translated by Laura Watkinson

Awards and Recognitions:

  • American Library Association (ALA), Mildred L. Batchelder Honor (2014)
  • National Jewish Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature (2013)
  • United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) Outstanding International Books (2014)
  • National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the Children’s Book Council (CBC), 2014 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
  • Society of Illustrators, “The Original Art” annual exhibition (2013)

It’s World War II, and Misha’s family, like the rest of the Jews living in Warsaw, has been moved by the Nazis into a single crowded ghetto. Conditions are appalling: every day more people die from disease, starvation, and deportations. Misha does his best to help his family survive, even crawling through the sewers to smuggle food. When conditions worsen, Misha joins a handful of other Jews who decide to make a final, desperate stand against the Nazis.

Heavily illustrated with sober blue-and-white drawings, this powerful novel dramatically captures the brutal reality of a tragic historical event.

View the book trailer

Contest Details

To enter our EBYR Award Winners Giveaway, click through to our Rafflecopter giveaway page. You’ll have the option of logging in with Facebook or email (we’ll need some way to contact you if you win!); you may then choose from several possible methods of entry. You can use multiple entry methods to increase your odds of winning, and Twitter users may even earn additional entries by tweeting about the giveaway each day between now and February 20. 

You must be 18 years or older and a legal resident of the United States to enter. 

The entry period for the giveaway begins at 10:00 a.m. Monday, February 17, 2014, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, February 20. Winners will be selected at random and notified by email by the end of business Friday, February 21.

We’re pleased this morning to bring you the latest episode in the Eerdmans Author Interview Series, which has previously featured Francis Watson, James D. G. Dunn, Walter Brueggemann, Angela Dienhart Hancock, and Douglas Ottati.

Today’s video stars J. Denny Weaver, who is professor emeritus of religion at Bluffton University, Bluffton, Ohio, and author of both The Nonviolent Atonement (now in its second edition) and, most recently, The Nonviolent God.

The Nonviolent God

The Nonviolent God

In The Nonviolent God Weaver argues that since God is revealed in Jesus, the nonviolence of Jesus most truly reflects the character of God.

According to Weaver, the way Christians live — Christian ethics — is an ongoing expression of theology. Consequently, he suggests positive images of the reign of God made visible in the narrative of Jesus — nonviolent practice, forgiveness and restorative justice, issues of racism and sexism, and more — in order that Christians might live more peacefully.

This bold new statement on the nonviolence of God challenges long-standing assumptions of divine violence in theology, the violent God pictured in the Old Testament, and the supposed violence of God in Revelation.

Click to order J. Denny Weaver’s The Nonviolent God, to read an excerpt from the book here on EerdWord, or to visit the official website of the Eerdmans Author Interview Series.

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.

New Releases

Analogia Entis

Analogia Entis: Metaphysics: Original Structure and Universal Rhythm
by Erich Przywara, translated by John R. Bets and David Bentley Hart

Two Little Birds
Mary Newell DePalma

News from Eerdmans . . .

  • Happy Valentines Day from Eerdmans! Check out our collections of highly theological valentines on Tumblr and Facebook, including some brilliant fan contributions.

. . . 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:

Last spring, we proudly published James D. Bratt’s Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat, the first full-scale English-language biography of the influential and multifaceted Dutch theologian and statesman.

Bratt’s book was a dream come true for Kuyper’s many modern-day admirers. It showed up several times on our annual “Best of the ‘Best of’ Lists List” roundup, and its many positive reviews and endorsements can be summed up briefly in the words of Kuyper enthusiast Richard Mouw:

“At last! This is what many of us have been waiting for — a careful, detailed, and highly readable(!) biography of Kuyper in all of his human complexity. Jim Bratt has given us the comprehensive study of ‘Father Abraham’ that will serve English speakers for years to come.”

Abraham Kuyper

In fact, we’d be hard-pressed to find anything lacking in Bratt’s “comprehensive study” of Kuyper — except perhaps this: it doesn’t include any visual evidence of Kuyper sporting a full beard and mustache on holiday in Switzerland.

Enter Jan de Bruijn, whose Abraham Kuyper: A Pictorial Biography now satisfies this pressing need.

The book is made up of nearly four hundred full-color illustrations — family photos, political cartoons, posters, documents, newspaper clippings, and more — all with extended explanatory captions.

It opens for readers a rare window into the people, places, and events in Kuyper’s life and world, including . . . 

The bed box in which Kuyper was born in 1837.

The Kuyperian Box Bed

One of Kuyper’s early report cards from the Stedelijk Gymnasium.

According to de Bruijn, “Abraham Kuyper had to get used to the classical school system after having been home-schooled; as a result in his first year, his grades were average.”

The Kuyperian Report Card

Kuyper’s then-fiancée Johanna Hendrika Schaay.

The two wrote frequently to one another during their engagement. In one letter Kuyper told his beloved, “If I enumerated all the grammatical mistakes you make in your letters I would frighten you — but alas, that’s an obstacle for all young girls. When you are here again we shall go over them together; it’s easier that way.”

The Kuperian Fiancee

Kuyper’s mother-in-law Henriëtte Sophie Susanna Schaay-Leopold.

(This photo tells its own story, we think.)

The Kuyperian Mother-in-Law

And, of course, plenty of images of Kuyper himself in all the many phases of his life, including (below) as a young student. 

Young Kuyper

“An inviting, accessible introduction to a man of vast energy and vision, a Christian leader and thinker of the first order. We get to see and hear Abraham Kuyper up close — his development and character; the people, issues, and events that loomed large in his life — all captured in intriguing pictures, images, and words from close to his heart. This is the readiest way to get to know Kuyper — and to want to know more.”
— James D. Bratt, author of Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat

Click to order Jan de Bruijn’s Abraham Kuyper: A Pictorial Biography.

The Kuyperian Holiday

Abraham Kuyper in Switzerland.

Mary Newell DePalma has written and illustrated a number of books for children, including Uh-Oh!Bow-Wow Wiggle-Waggle, and, most recently, Two Little Birds

* * *

Two Little Birds

Two Little Birds

I looked out the window one day and saw a little bird hopping around. I watched it for a while and wondered what its life was like. It looked ordinary to me, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it traveled to the tropics each year, flying thousands of miles on tiny wings. Maybe it had little brown sparrow friends here, and magnificent red macaw friends somewhere else! That would be pretty cool.

I was curious, so I read piles and piles of books about birds. I learned many fascinating facts, but I also discovered that scientists still find birds mysterious in many ways. The orchard oriole is one bird that actually does what I imagined — it flies from its North American nesting grounds to Central American rain forests each year. These migratory birds are amazing, I thought. I want to make a picture book about them.

So I did. I wrote and illustrated a simple, joyful story about two little birds who follow their natural instincts — and their own sense of adventure — on an exciting voyage through storms, across plains and oceans, and back again.

Two Little Birds is a story designed to inspire. I want young readers to care about the little birds and imagine how they feel. After reading Two Little Birds, I hope they go right to a window to look for a bird. That way, the end of the book will set them off on  their own delightful journeys of discovery — journeys that start at the window and extend to the backyard, the park, the bird sanctuary, and the far corners of the earth.

Two Little Birds is a very short story, but I hope you take a long time to read it. The sentences imply much more than they say; they invite readers of all ages to ponder and imagine. The pictures tell a story too; their sequence and texture illustrate a little bird’s journey from the dark inside of an egg to the wide ocean of sky.

Two Little Birds INT

Somewhere along the way, I realized I was writing about more than just birds. Yes, Two Little Birds is about the first migration of two young orchard orioles. It is also, in a more personal sense, about children growing up and embarking on their own journeys. It reminds me to be happy and not sad as my own two little birds fly the nest.

Written from the little birds’ point of view, Two Little Birds is a story full of joy and discovery.

Savor the journey!

Click to order Two Little Birds or to visit  Mary Newell De Palma’s website, where you can find a discussion guide for the book. 

Tom Raabe

Tom Raabe

Recently, editor Tom Raabe was called upon to introduce Samuel Wells and Abigail Kocher’s new book Shaping the Prayers of the People: The Art of Intercession to the Eerdmans sales and marketing teams.

His short talk was so well received — so instantly memorable — that we couldn’t resist sharing it here on EerdWord (with his blessing, of course). 

* * *

I’m guessing we’ve all heard plenty of corporate prayers. Many, it must be said, are well-crafted intercessions of compassion and thought, engaged and sincere dialogue with the maker, redeemer, and sustainer of all things in the context of a worship service.

Others . . . not so much. They are dolorous marches down weathered paths of exhausted phrases, called up without energy by a preacher whose inner governor is stuck on lugubrious. Or they are political screeds sanctified by cassocks and chasubles. Or they are tantamount to newsletter notices wherein we pray that God “heal Mabel Jaeger, who suffered an unfortunate gardening accident Saturday and is recovering nicely at Blodgett Hospital, where she is in Room 242 and would welcome visitors.” Or they are grab bags of ad hoc but treadless and coded phrases where we “just feel led to lift up to You, Father, what’s been laid on our hearts.”

The time is right for a book teaching worship leaders how to write, and deliver, the prayers of the people in a worship service.

Samuel Wells, with coauthor Abigail Kocher, has written just such a book. Wells, an Anglican, spent seven years as Dean of the Chapel at Duke University. During this time, in addition to preaching, he frequently led the prayers of the people during worship, often receiving, afterward, more compliments for his prayers than for his sermons — which, he says, “rather bewildered” him, as it would any who have heard Wells preach.

Shaping the Prayers of the People

Shaping the Prayers of the People

But out of his bewilderment comes our enlightenment, as he has compiled a comprehensive but comprehensible guide to corporate prayer designed to help intercessors prepare their own prayers with confidence and grace.

The book contains two parts. In one part Wells lays out the ground rules for what he believes is the best method of offering intercessions in a congregational setting. He explores the nature of intercessory prayer, and teaches readers how to shape such prayers. He devotes two chapters to enhancing prayers by allowing them to dovetail with the rest of a worship service and by engaging a range of resources, notably hymns and songs. He also deals with silence in worship and extempore prayers.

The second part of the book consists of examples — three chapters of them, one of prayers for liturgical seasons, another of more general worship prayers, and a third of prayers used in more informal or occasional settings.

“Interceding in public worship is a duty,” Wells maintains. “This book is intended to make it a joy.”

Click to order Samuel Wells and Abigail Kocher’s Shaping the Prayers of the People: The Art of Intercession.

Note: An earlier version of this post mistakenly referred to Abigail Kocher as Elizabeth. The post has been updated to correct the error. 

Happy Monday!

Yes, we know: generally speaking, those two words together form one of the most oxymoronic expressions in the English language.

This morning, however, “Happy Monday!” simply means that it’s time to pour that second (or third, or even fourth) cup of coffee and settle back to watch the latest episode in the Eerdmans Author Interview Series.

Today’s video features Douglas Ottati, who is Craig Family Distinguished Professor of Reformed Theology and Justice at Davidson College in North Carolina and author of the new book Theology for Liberal Protestants: God the Creator.

Theology for Liberal Protestants

Theology for Liberal Protestants

Theology for Liberal Protestants presents a comprehensive theology for Christians who are willing to rethink and revise traditional doctrines in the face of contemporary challenges. It is Augustinian, claiming that we belong to the God of grace who creates, judges, and renews. It is Protestant, affirming the priority of the Bible and the fallibility of church teaching. It is liberal, recognizing the importance of critical arguments and scientific inquiries, a deeply historical consciousness, and a commitment to social criticism and engagement.

The first of two volumes, God the Creator, contains sections on method and creation. Ottati’s method envisions the world and ourselves in relation to God as Creator, Judge, and Redeemer. The bulk of the book offers an in-depth discussion of God as Creator, the world as creation, and humans as good, capable, and limited creatures.

Click to order Theology for Liberal Protestants: God the Creator, to read an EerdWord guest post by Douglas Ottati, or to visit the official website of the Eerdmans Author Interview Series.

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.

New Releases

Thomas the Toadilly Terrible Bully
Janice Levy, Bill Slavin and Esperança Melo

Shaping Public Theology
E. Harold Breitenberg Jr., Hak Joon Lee, Scott R. Paeth

News from Eerdmans . . .

. . . 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:

David R. Nienhuis is associate professor of New Testament studies at Seattle Pacific University.  Robert W. Wall is Paul T. Walls Professor of Scripture and Wesleyan Studies at Seattle Pacific University. Together, they have written Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude as Scripture: The Shaping and Shape of a Canonical Collection.

When we approached them to write to write a guest post for EerdWord, they responded with an unusual proposal: they would each write separately about the individual paths that brought them into this project, then comment together on the collaborative partnership that took them through it.

How could we resist?! 

In part one of our series, Rob Wall told his part of the story; in part two, Dave Nienhuis shared his. Today we hear from Rob Wall again, as he describes the collaborative effort that resulted in their new book. 

* * *

Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude as Scripture

Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude as Scripture

Dave’s concluding reference to his important work on 2 Peter prompts me to make a final point about the nature of our collaboration. Unlike the sciences, where collaboration is the professional norm, most co-authored books in biblical studies (and generally in the humanities) are not produced by an extended, interpenetrating conversation between two scholars and their students. Multi-authored books are typically the collected results of different scholars working by themselves on projects of shared interests. The best of this genre vocalizes the work of a chorus of scholars, singing together in their different voices but still in harmony. What Dave and I wanted to produce, however, was a genuinely co-authored book whose core ideas were developed organically in a give-take conversation with each other and with different groups of students over an extended period of time. Our book is the product of such a conversation.

For example, Dave came to our project with a working hypothesis about the canonization of 2 Peter already forged during his PhD research (see his Not By Paul Alone). But it wasn’t until, while working on this book and team teaching a class on the Catholic Epistles (CE), our attention turned to this letter’s role within the collection that new and surprising ways of thinking about 2 Peter began to emerge. As can be witnessed by our steady email dialogue, Dave’s original hypothesis about the canonizing of 2 Peter came to be refocused upon its strategic and continuing role as the lynchpin letter for an entire canonical collection. Much of this conversation, though initiated by Dave, was driven by our shared intuitions about the internal logic of the sevenfold CE collection, which we tested and confirmed by intertextual analysis, historical witness (“shaping”), and theological readings (“shape”). Our book presents these preliminary findings. But what has emerged from our collaboration since is a new understanding of 2 Peter, which Dave continues to unfold based upon the goods he mined from the point of the letter’s canonization and from its current biblical location within the CE collection.

About that “Epilogue” Dave touched on in his blog post yesterday: yes, we mention the prospect of further work that engages the two corpora of New Testament letters, Pauline and Pillars, in an intracanonical dialogue regulated by the point of canonization and by recognition of their different yet complementary theological witnesses. But the Epilogue is much more than a declaration of our own scholarly intentions. It is an invitation for other colleagues to join in this collaboration with us.

There is much work to do.

Click to order Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude as Scripture: The Shaping and Shape of a Canonical Collection by Robert W. Wall and David R. Nienhuis, or to read parts one and two of this series. 

Robert W. Wall is Paul T. Walls Professor of Scripture and Wesleyan Studies at Seattle Pacific University. David R. Nienhuis is associate professor of New Testament studies at Seattle Pacific University. Together, they have written the new book Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude as Scripture: The Shaping and Shape of a Canonical Collection.

When we approached them to write to write a guest post for EerdWord, they responded with an unusual proposal: they would each write separately about the individual paths that brought them into this project, then comment together on the collaborative partnership that took them through it.

How could we resist?! 

In part one of our series, Rob Wall told his part of the story; in part two (below), Dave Nienhuis shares his. 

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David R. Nienhuis

David R. Nienhuis

It is striking to me that Rob’s entre into this research question was prompted by a sense of dissatisfaction with the reigning ecclesial interpretations of Paul and James. I confess that my entry into the world of academia itself was occasioned by a similar sense of dis-ease. My undergraduate and master’s programs of study had prepared me for a life of ministry in the church. Later, as my academic calling became clearer to me, I struggled to find myself at home in a scholarly system that so cleanly subdivided the larger theological subject matter (i.e. God!) into discrete, internalized academic sub-disciplines. Was I to become a Bible scholar, a theologian, or a church historian — and what about my commitment to the people in the pews, the target of the church’s pastoral ministry?

Happily my previous training (under folks like Rob Wall and Richard Hays) provided strong examples of biblical scholars whose work with Scripture was intentionally inclined toward theological and ecclesial reflection. It made perfect sense, therefore, for me to turn to Francis Watson to supervise my Ph.D. I learned from Rob how to approach Scripture canonically, and Richard trained me in the practice of close literary reading. It felt very natural, therefore, for me to pursue a literary, canonical approach to the Catholic Epistles (CE).

Everyone agrees that the CE have been generally overlooked by modern biblical scholarship. I entered the project assuming that this was because the collection could not be accounted for according to the dominant historical-developmental methodological commitments of mainstream biblical studies. After all, the CE are seven (or more, if one includes Hebrews!) different letters produced by at least five different hands originating from (often unknown) different historical locales. The guild simply does not train us to read diverse letters like these together as a unit. So I began by assuming that historical data would not help us make sense of the CE. My plan was, rather, to write a book arguing that the way forward was to read them as an intentionally designed literary unity.

Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude as Scripture

Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude as Scripture

It wasn’t long, however, before I began to discover something that has driven my work ever since: while the CE’s various points of origin are indeed diverse and mostly (though not entirely) disconnected, their later formation into a canonical unit was the result of an intentional, discernible historical process — one that has a profound impact on how they are read as Christian Scripture. The final product of this odyssey is a book entitled Not by Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and the Christian Canon (Baylor, 2007).

One of my chief goals in that book was to provide an example of how history, literature, and theology might be drawn together in biblical studies. A common complaint against a so-called “canonical” reading of Scripture is the lack of historical justification for the project: yes, one might argue that particular biblical books can be read together as intentionally designed literary units, but what historical evidence exists that the Bible was designed to be read that way? Not by Paul Alone strives to fill in that gap by providing a historical basis for a literary-theological reading of the Bible. It does this by shifting historical analysis away from the point of the letters’ composition (which, despite all our work, remains largely obscure to us) and toward the letters’ point of canonization — that moment wherein they were taken up as Scripture and creatively arranged with other apostolic writings to provide readers with a timely word from God.

At this same time that I was writing Not by Paul Alone, Rob was hard at work developing a study of the “Unifying Theology of the Catholic Epistle Collection” that would go on to have a wide impact on how scholars read these letters as a collection. When interest in this piece led Eerdmans to approach Rob about writing an introduction to the CE, I was blessed to be asked to join in so that Rob’s extensive work on the final “shape” of the collection might be substantiated by accompanying analysis of its historical “shaping.”

There is, of course, a lot more work to do. One of the more interesting insights in our book is the important role 2 Peter plays as a “literary anchor” for the collection as a whole. Although 2 Peter is often considered one of the more irrelevant books of the New Testament, my ongoing work on its role in the canonical process has led me to regard it as a crucial letter, so I’m hard at work writing on that subject right now. More work is also needed to develop the claim made throughout this book that the Pauline and “Pillar” letter collections are designed to be read as a mutually glossing whole apostolic witness — a canonical conversation of sorts that is moderated by the Acts of the Apostles. Our epilogue hints at where such a study might go, but the work has yet to be done.

Click to order Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude as Scripture: The Shaping and Shape of a Canonical Collection by Robert W. Wall and David R. Nienhuis, and be sure to check back tomorrow for part three of this series.