Reading John for Dear Life

Reading John
for Dear Life

Author Jaime Clark-Soles
Publisher WJK £7.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780664238476  2016

This book presents a fresh and invigorating exploration of John’s Gospel and the approach taken is indicated by the sub-title: A Spiritual Walk with the Fourth Gospel. The book has clear origins in the USA, but it nevertheless crosses the Atlantic well. It manages to combine being scholarly with also being approachable and it engages us with the characters found in this gospel. Disability studies are put to good use and the author counters the erroneous assumption that suffering is related to sin. Meaningful distinctions are made between impairment and disability, and also between curing and healing. The use of footnotes, poetry, questions for reflection and prayers all add to the enjoyment of this book, which I highly recommend as a breath of fresh air in relating scriptural text to contemporary life. Reading it could well prove to be a fruitful journey.

MICHAEL FOSTER

New Testament Analysis

 

In a Glass Darkly

In a Glass Darkly

Authors Zoe Bennett and Christopher Rowland
Publisher SCM £25
Format pbk
ISBN 9780334054221  2016

Our reading of the Bible, or indeed any work, is to some extent coloured by our own life experience. Bennett and Rowland bring together the Bible and Christian tradition with their own personal and professional experience as they consider the interpretation of scripture, made more interesting by the fact they come from different church backgrounds. This is not an easy book to read, but it is made more appealing by reference to literature, particularly the works of John Ruskin and William Blake, and by the personal experiences encountered by the authors. It is, in the true apocalyptic sense, an ‘unveiling, unmasking, revealing, that which is hidden.’ As such it provides a challenging and thought provoking read for all who attempt to explain the Bible to others; a book to ‘stimulate readers’ imagination to engage with the Bible’, as the authors intend.

MARGARET TINSLEY

Biblical Analysis, Christian Tradition

 

God with Us

God with Us

Author Rowan Williams
Publisher SPCK £8.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780281076642  2016

This is a series of five talks and a short sermon, edited and collated into a book on ‘The meaning of the cross and resurrection – then and now’. Williams encourages us to ‘put out into deep water’. It is a Tardis – small on the outside (106pp), but revealing depth and breadth on reading. I found that Williams regularly took me through what I knew into new vistas of what I didn’t know, shedding light, deepening the background and making new connections. Clarity is a hallmark. I found the book yielded yet more on a second reading and will, no doubt, take me even further the next time. The chapters are self-contained, so it is a good book for busy people. Chapters finish with questions for ‘reflection or discussion’; some of these are quite searching and encourage personal engagement beyond the academic enquiry – useful for a series of Lent studies where members are willing to delve deep.

GERTRUD SOLLARS

Doctrine, Spirituality

 

To Nativity and Beyond

To Nativity and Beyond

Author David Sinclair
Publisher Canterbury Press £16.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780861538461  2016

Sinclair, a Church of Scotland minister, has given us a book of ‘Worship Resources for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany’, packed with fully-worked services, reflections, prayers and stories: enough to make the weary leader or preacher leap for joy during this busy time of year. There is an interesting range of ideas for services that are ‘a bit different’, a few clearly ‘all age’, such as the dressing of the Christmas tree. Others include The Service of Angels, Silent Night (a quiet, meditative service), a pre-Christmas service for the bereaved and lots of ideas for Christmas Eve. One possible downside is that the book does not follow traditional lectionary reading patterns and can seem a little confused, particularly the Advent material. The book also seems rather word-heavy. Readers leading worship and preaching may find some of the prayers, reflections and stories too long to use as they are.

APRIL McINTYRE

Advent/Christmas, Liturgy

 

Matthew

Matthew

Author Elaine Wainwright
Publisher T&T Clark £14.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781350008793

Scholarship does not stand still. If you thought that redaction and form criticism were transformative, here is more to challenge you. We already know that Matthew wrote firmly from within the Jewish tradition and showed God at work in the community with its emperors and in cosmic phenomena like earthquakes and comets. This dense book seeks to update us on recent scholarship from the mid-1990s to the present, including feminist, masculinity readings, wisdom studies, reader-response theory, post-colonial studies and queer theory. If your shelves are out of date, this will guide you to recent publications. It ends with an (unconvincing) ecological reading of the Beatitudes. This is only an introductory survey and, since the academics quoted write papers in learned journals rather than commentaries, Readers are better off reading them on the internet.

DEREK JAY

New Testament Analysis

 

Thomas More

Thomas More

Author John Guy
Publisher SPCK £12.99
Format hbk
ISBN 9780281077380

This brief examination of the life and later reputation of Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor would make an excellent starting point for anyone beginning a course of study on the Reformation. However, the short biography which forms the first part of the book is disappointingly dry and dull. Guy becomes much more interesting as he discusses More’s treatment by later generations in art and literature. I found the discussion of the contrasting characterisations by Robert Bolt (A Man for All Seasons) and Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall) especially useful as Guy points out how later contemporary political issues shape the portrayal. There is also a frank discussion of the political motivation behind More’s canonisation by the Roman Catholic Church (without any evidence of miraculous activity) in 1935. A good bibliography provides plenty of scope for further study.

KIRSTY ANDERSON

Biography, History