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Rev. Kevin P. Robinson (London)
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The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says
The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says
by April D. De Conick
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.76

4.0 out of 5 stars Another fading star, 21 July 2011
April De Conick has some rare and objective insights into biblical theology. The initial excitement over the "Gospel of Judas" delivered some very mediocre preliminary studies. These were all the more difficult for the average reader to assess without the facility of Coptic language. DeConick presents here a more balanced assessment of the text with greater detachment from the intial furore. National Geographic authors on this subject should now give account of their first presentations which clearly played to the popular gallery. Nevertheless, simply reading the "English" NG Translation rasied more questions than anybody seemed able to give answers at the time. As a second century product what the text actually gives witness to is the weight of "Apostolic" tradition that was clearly well established within whatever might be described as "mainstream Christianity" by that time. The Gospel of Judas is primarily concerned with disparaging the life of the church that had become well rooted in "apostolic traditions" long associated with the twelve. (as was the case with the NT canon). This surely predates the likes of Irenaeus and Tertullian (who are increasingly maligned in some feminist circles as being inventors of an exclusively male apostolic/patriarchal system). The text of Judas clearly give witness to something already well established and by no means novel. The testimony of the twelve especially the idea of eucharist where a flesh and blood Christ continues to be encountered by the faithful is deeply disparaged. Judas believes he is the recipient of higher spiritual knowledge from the God of the upper demiurge whereas in the text he remains as misled as the others and a pawn in the hands of the lower God Ialdebeoth. Far from outshining the twelve apostles in enlightenment he outstrips them in how far he has been misled within the lower order. The "gnostic" Christ portrayed here laughs at them all. Judas is condemned as nothing more than an abandoned fading star of the lower order.

As a byproduct of her study De Conick offers an interesting perspective on the Gospel of Mark which deserves consideration. If Mark's Gospel is the earliest (and that remains still an "IF") Mark still fails to deliver the character of Peter and the twelve in a good light. Is it possible that Mark was endeavouring to reconcile the Apocalyptic Resurrection gospel of Paul with the more pedestrian narrative of the life of Christ witnessed by Peter and the twelve. The tension/Conflict/Contrast between Peter and Paul is not clearly resolved to this day. If Mark travelled with Paul, was he the same young man to whose mother's house Peter made a miraculous escape from prison Acts 12v12 and indeed the same Mark whom the writer of 1st Peter ch 5 describes as Peters' Son writing in coded form from Rome/Babylon. (Not forgetting the oldest tradition that Mark wrote down everything he had heard from Peter - Papias etc). Is this why Paul and Barnabas had the bust up and was it Peter for whom Mark went in search in defiance of Paul? By the same token was it not inevitable that Peter should have appeared to stick with Jewish communities if he could only speak simple Aramaic whereas Paul had the whole intelectual facility of speaking Greek and discussing philosphy in public forums.

DeConicks earlier work "Voice of the Mystics" is equally rewarding suggesting that The Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of John were the products of two rival communities where these two texts are in juxtaposition. John's Gospel being heavily Incarnational; Christ came down to us whereas Thomas is about Spiritual ascent to heavenly realms.

I have found both these books conducive to developing a critical Catholic Christian faith.


Koranic Sources: Pre-Islamic, Christian, and Qumranian Influences
Koranic Sources: Pre-Islamic, Christian, and Qumranian Influences
by Ibn Warraq
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mystery Publication, 9 Jun 2011
Been waiting patiently for this book now for about a year. Wish that somebody would give an update or tell us what is preventing publication. Would be good to hear from Ibn Waraq. Have "struggelled" (Jihad?) with his other collections but he is bravely attempting to bring proper critical scholarship to the sacred text. Fascinated to trace more effectively the interconnected literary roots of the Quran. Not least to consider possible connections with apocalyptic community of Qumran although with 500+ years between their destruction and no real evidence for their survival as a distinct group elsewhere that seems far fetched. Nevertheless how to disentangle from the array of Jewish/Christian/Apocalyptic/Gnostic and popular mythology of middle east will be quite a journey. Somebody tell us what's happening and where it is! Are the publishers too nervous to go ahead?
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 5, 2014 3:14 AM BST


The Broadsword and the Beast (ccd 1380)
The Broadsword and the Beast (ccd 1380)
Price: £6.61

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Demon Anderson now stands alone!, 27 Dec 2009
The last truly produced studio album. Though with the new line up following the regrettable events at the turn of the 80's this for me is the last proper solid TULL album. The "Slow Marching Band" track is a sad swipe at old friends turned into past employees "Take a hand and take a bow you played for me that's all for now". Evans, Barlow and Palmer deserved better than that. Still the death of Glascock had been a devastating sadness. Everything since then has been "good in parts" but lacking the solid sense of a well engineered consistent product. Anderson draws here on lots of classical mystical Tull Type themes sailing ships, dark seas, burial mounds marking the loss of youth. Clever lyrics and lots of social observation. There is a prevailing sadness that something has gone. This is a watershed album and though it endeavored to make use of newer electronic technologies it does not sound so contrived as other material from around the period. This is one for keeps.


Reginald Pole: Prince and Prophet
Reginald Pole: Prince and Prophet
by Thomas F. Mayer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £32.42

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavyweight Pole Dancing, 26 Dec 2009
This book requires determined perseverance to complete. The author assumes that the reader is well acquainted with so many aspects and characters of European Catholicism, especially the progress of the Council of Trent and the seceding popes during the 1550's, that no further guidance is necessary. Reams of historic documents (perhaps previously unvisited) have been meticulously measured but at the expense of a loss of clarity in the narrative. Characters and personalities appear with little or no introduction in complex political and ecclesiastical situations where the reader needs more background information. It would be good if there was an accessible timeline to locate where and when and who are the principle figures at each moment of the unfolding drama. Sometimes the text is excruciatingly detailed in matters that might be peripheral, while in other aspects frustratingly brief, glossing over major developments without sufficient reflection(eg the execution of his mother and brother or "the well known flight from Trent"). Hence the reader may struggle to make sense of the biographical progress. A glimpse through the penultimate chapter ("A Catalogue of Portrait Images", regrettably only black and white) will serve to demonstrate the author's painstaking care with his vast accumulated material. The author's task is not assisted by the verbosity that Pole demonstrated in his own writings. These were delicate times where "progressive" theological themes needed to be developed and introduced with pages of polite academic rhetoric. Nevertheless, Pole surfaces as a man more sinned against than sinning who opens the council of Trent with a great Ecumenical heart for the reconciliation of the Germanic church. It is difficult to understand how at one moment, following the death of Paul lll, Pole stood poised to become Pope yet a short time later his Catholic loyalty is considered suspect. Being short of only one vote in the conclave of 1549, he later attracted the attention of the Inquisition. As someone now identified as part of the "Spirituali" party, he dared to suggest that "not everything taught by heretics is necessarily heresy". Notwithstanding the traumatic developments of English Church life in the period of Mary Tudor (which are only now being revisited) as Cardinal Archbishop of England, Pole successfully brought the English Church back into full Communion with Rome. Meanwhile in Rome, rather than receiving support and gratitude for such an extraordinary achievement, by the time of his death he faced the possibility of an interdict. This combined, with exhaustion must have hastened his premature death. Being in a weakened state of body and mind like the queen herself he fell victim to the "sweating sickness" on the very same day 17th November 1558. All of this is told with dry and detailed academic detachment that does not endear the reader to the text. There is an ambiguity in the identity of Pole that has remained unresolved through the ages. Mayer is right to avoid the divisive issue of Saint or Sinner? He leaves us with a man born out of time, perhaps 400 years too soon. As a cousin to King Henry 8th and at one time a possible contender for the throne by the hand of the Princess Mary, we are left with someone no less than a "Prince and Prophet" - but not much opportunity for dancing!


Minstrel in the Gallery
Minstrel in the Gallery
Price: £6.92

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valhalla and the BAND, 24 Nov 2008
This review is from: Minstrel in the Gallery (Audio CD)
The most energetic and creative Tull album equally balanced between all the creative members of the band with a live tension between the respective personalities and contributors. Ian's controlling ego has not quite overruled the other ingredients and as a result here is the most rewarding and memorable album actually recorded by an authentic band. Or was it simply that I was turning 18?


Justin Martyr and His Worlds
Justin Martyr and His Worlds
by Sara Parvis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.48

4.0 out of 5 stars A gap in the clouds, 24 Nov 2008
Not a useful introduction to Justyn Martyr as the authors assume a fairly advanced working knowledge of his identity and writings. More solid extracts would be useful for someone looking for a guide to his thought. Nevertheless here is a provocative tome demanding that this very Early Church Father is revisited by thoughtful Christians of all traditions. Colin Buchanan's chapter is provocative from a non catholic perspective. He surveys the paucity of sub apostolic material for Catholic Doctrine and likens Justyn's Catholic credibility as a brief gap in the clouds from where an observer in an aeroplane might observe an "ostrich farm" or a snow capped mountain and assume that that represented the landscape of Africa....? In the same way the landscape of the 1st/2nd Century Church might apparently be similarly misinterpreted. Presumably he is in bed with Elaine Pagels where there are so many "Christianities" that none are truly valid. Quo Vadis my lord?


Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion
Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion
by Alan F. Segal
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life after religion, 5 Nov 2008
This is an astonishing and monumental work. Alan Segal is a respected Biblical Theologian from a Jewish background. Some knowledge of his previous publications is useful as one can observe the author's own progress of thought here. This book moves into wider sociological arenas of religious discussion as much as theological reflection. Starting in Egypt circa 3000 years BC(E) where a doctrine of Resurrection surrounded the Pharaohs and was gradually "democratised" through the aristocracy and on towards the wider population, Segal begins his thesis that Resurrection and Afterlife doctrines cannot be divided from political interests. In Egypt the eternal good of the people was inextricably united with the everlasting life of the king(s). Moving on, in Canaanite religion where afterlife themes are more closely interwoven with agricultural rhythms and seasons Segal identifies the dominating tradition of the dying and rising god "EL" (Those dodgy "Ba-Els" of Hebrew Scripture) which perhaps prefigure Christianity. Then onwards again through Post Exilic 2nd Temple Israel, whereas afterlife themes are hard to come by in early Judaism and the main body of Hebrew Scripture, we begin to discover a developing Israelite tradition that is now touched by Babylonian Mythology such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and further astrological themes borrowed from Mesopotamian religion. Now "The Wise" (recipients of Wisdom) begin to shine like stars and eventually rise to become heavenly luminaries (as in Daniel 12). Thus we move on again towards later apocalyptic Jewish/Christian Themes seen in such texts as the deutero canonical writings of the Catholic Canon and additional texts such as Enoch. Now we are introduced to "Angelification" themes such as witnessed at Qumran and in early Christian Encratic traditions. From here Segal moves towards a discussion of bodily resurrection (Jesus and the empty tomb etc) vis a vis immortality of the soul as borrowed from Greek philosophy especially Plato, and the uneasiness with which Christianity endeavors to amalgamate the two. Paul is examined as having a disproportionate influence on early Christianity (at least in the mind of the author) and as someone who was essentially a preacher of a revised type of Jewish Apocalypticism. Paul's conversion event (based on an interpretation of 2Cor12?) is a thought provoking discussion which many Christians may find challenging, but other apostolic traditions are too quickly brushed aside. Finally on to Islamic resurrection concepts and the effects of religion in the modern world especially when linked to concepts of martyrdom. Segal seems to have arrived at his own point of Jewish agnosticism which is unfortunate. It is sad when theology becomes simply the vehicle for professionals to make a living out of religion from the safe detachment of academic social observation. The writer seems to deny any ingredient of revelation in any sacred text or tradition, reducing them all to inter-related socio literary products reflecting certain times and cultural/political events rooted in the interconnected histories of the middle east. Nevertheless the reader is taken on a profound and rewarding journey which takes some courage and perseverance to complete. One suspects that Segal's own spiritual journey is not yet complete. Perhaps after this journey he needs to take a rest but the reader may await his next publication with interest. From here it is refreshing to turn to Pope Benedict's new publication "Jesus of Nazareth" to find a solid expression of modern critical theology working hand in hand with 21st Century Christian Sprituality and faith.


Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers, 1240-1570
Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers, 1240-1570
by Eamon Duffy
Edition: Hardcover

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marking Eternity, 19 Feb 2008
This book is meticulously researched and presented with beautiful colour plates on almost every page. Duffy's devotion to his subject is infectious. Here he writes with a simple lightness of touch which makes for easy reading that remains yet scholarly and accessible. This is a beautiful book to own and keep or to give as a gift. Many finely reproduced images are here available and now lend themselves for all time to thoughtful reflection anywhere. This is a quality product and a worthy tribute to the material which was so cherished and lovingly preserved through the ages by so many classes of people even after the reformation.


Richard Sibbes: Puritanism and Calvinism in Late Elizabethan and Early Stuart England
Richard Sibbes: Puritanism and Calvinism in Late Elizabethan and Early Stuart England
by Mark Dever
Edition: Paperback

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dancing on the Head of a Pin, 17 Feb 2008
This is a very dry academic account of a late Elizabethan early Stuart puritan. NB IT IS NOT AUTHORED by Eamon Duffy who has simply provided a brief forward. Mark Dever is an American Baptist minister whose text remains akin to a doctoral thesis. The mainly unnecessary footnotes are almost more voluminous than the main text. The author assumes that readers are well acquainted with much technical language and many details of post reformation protestant theology. "Assurance" "Sanctification" "Adiophora" "The Book of Sports" "Six Articals" etc. He dismantles the otherwise accepted belief that Sibbes was yet another dispossessed "Martyr" of the newly established English religion. By a process of good fortune, moderated Calvinist opinions and professional connections Sibbes was able to retain an influential status and a satisfactory lifestyle as an ordained minister and preacher, first at Cambridge and later at the Inns of Court while the established church became increasingly subject to Laudian tendencies. Throughout his life as one of the so called "Godly" party, Sibbes continued to resist separatist tendencies and represents a period when, with Rome utterly outlawed, English Christianity might still be described as an undivided "Covenant Community". Sibbes died on the eve of the English Civil war and was spared from witnessing the disaster that soon enveloped the nation. Rejecting all kinds of ceremonial practice within the CofE as leading towards superstition it makes sobering reading for latter day Anglo Catholics and there are few laughs to be had along the way. The tautology of rival schools of biblical thought during the period is illuminating but leaves the head spinning in search of something of more solid and simply sacramental.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 9, 2010 1:09 PM GMT


Bible As Book: The Series
Bible As Book: The Series
by Kimberly Van Kampen
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Bible as book, 19 Nov 2007
This series represents a set of heavy weight academic discussions conducted as conference papers between 1998-2003. They require a fairly sophisticated level of theological competence from the reader. The papers were originally delivered as discussions between related professional academics. They assume that the reader already commands a reasonable grasp of the respective subjects and original biblical languages (but Hebrew, Greek and occasional Syriac quotes are translated}. They endeavor to push current speculation, theory advancing available knowledge to another stage. A number of areas are identified for further scholarly investigation perhaps as the basis for potential doctoral theses. Though fearlessly investigated with thorough going criticism the phenomenon that we know as the Bible is clearly loved and respected as a sacred text by each writer representing a variety of Jewish and Christian traditions. Bibliographies are useful for those less advanced but still keen to develop personal understanding. Patient reading of these collected papers will be rewarded and will quickly banish simplistic and fundamentalist attitudes to Scripture. Nice to see Jewish and Christian scholars working in close collaboration especially in the "Discoveries in the Judean Desert" edition and related manuscript and later printing articles. The full set can still be located as individual copies in various locations on Amazon.


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