Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters

Edited by Marion Ann Taylor

(Baker Publishing Group, 2012)

Reviewed by Colin Kerr

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One will only ever gain a real handle on history by examining it from many different angles. While the history of women biblical interpretation sounds like a specialist’s field, I would argue that one would gain a much better sense of the development of Christian religious thought by paying it some real attention. It is not a comprehensive account of the history of doctrine – like that provided by Harnack and Pelikan. It is not even a comprehensive history of Biblical exegesis, like the fascinating multi-volume Cambridge History of the Bible. Nevertheless, it is a must read for those who would like a deeper appreciation of: 1 the Christian history of biblical interpretation, 2) of the role of women as amateur and as professional interpreters, 3) what the Protestant Reformation and the invention of the printing press meant on the social ground level, 4) Bible-literacy in the Middle Ages, 5) what Biblical scholarship looks like today.

I am not ‘partial’ to feminism, and avoided like the plague courses on feminist theology in school. Nevertheless, this book fascinates me: as an historian, as a theologian, as an academic, as a man who likes women and has tried to foster the theological careers of women. I hope many young ladies, especially, will read it and be inspired to put their minds into studying and teaching the Bible.

I appreciate the subdued tone of the discourse. It is history, not polemic. A remarkable, beneficial work. But, I like encyclopaedias. And this one is nearly perfect in every way. It is very readable, it is interesting, not pedantic at all; you can read it cover-to-cover, or jump around in it from entry to entry.

Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myth

 Written by Régine Pernoud

(Ignatius Press, 2000)

Reviewed by Colin Kerr

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This is a fun read. It’s fun and instructive. But it serves an important function – vitally important – which function is at the heart of what the Catholic Review of Books wants to do.

History has always been rewritten. It’s rewritten the moment it first makes its way to paper. They say that history is written by the winners, not the losers – the Romans, the British, the Americans – not by the Russians, Japanese or the Germans. That’s true and not true. The underdog has often managed to tell his story too, whether that be the Christians of the first centuries, the Socialists in Russia and Germany, or, again, today the Christians. History is a funny thing, such a powerful thing. Historians knew this long before history was written. The tale of the hero, the story of the tribe’s foundation – these things make a people who they are. The history of some guys that scripture scholars refer to as the Yahwist, the Eloist, the Deuteronomist and the Priestly Author are still extremely powerful forces in the world today. Historians should feel pretty good about the power they are able to wield. Continue reading

The Father of the Family: A Christian Perspective

Written by Clayton C. Barbeau

(Sophia Institute Press, 2013)

Reviewed by Colin Kerr

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Those who are familiar with my blog, The Theology of Dad, know that I am touchy about ‘dad-theology.’ This is an age of crisis of masculinity, as many have been quick to point out. Many have been quick to point this out, but slow to ‘accept the consequences’ for doing so. The thing is, masculinity has profound implications for our modern age. It doesn’t fit in well, and so if we really want to make room for it, other things are gonna get squished. St. Joseph is harmless when painted with small, white hands. But that’s not real fatherhood. But I’m going to try to read and review this book, not as a theologian, but as a father, a father in this modern, confusing world.

This is an updated, second edition by the therapist and father of eight. The subtitle is informative – A Christian Perspective. It’s not a therapist’s perspective, that is to say, one limited to that expertise and context. It’s broader than that, although it certainly draws upon the author’s clinical experience. But, primarily it is a Christian’s book. And so he divides his reflection on the father, according to how he functions as ‘creator’, ‘lover’, ‘Christ’, ‘priest’, ‘teacher’, ‘breadwinner’ and ‘saint.’ Obviously, these titles aren’t mutually exclusive – it is hard to imagine, for instance, how ‘Christ’ and ‘saint’ wouldn’t go hand-in-hand. That’s precisely the point, fatherhood is a multi-faceted thing, that no single term can exhaust. Continue reading