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How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters
How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters
Price: £4.74

5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic and timely book, 29 May 2016
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A fantastic and timely book!
This book provides a clarity and context to much of what I have thought and felt about what it is to be English throughout my life. But its not just about the past. This book brings home not only the great tradition to which we belong but that we are now the bearers of an incomparable heritage with the responsibility of preserving and passing on to future generations. The nation now stands at a moment of decision with the EU referendum when his heritage and the values of liberty and national sovereignty once more are open to challenge. This vote is not about economics but identity. As with two previous civil wars - against Stuart and Hanoverian absolutism - there can be no question of how we must vote regarding EU absolutism: for British self-determination.


The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe 950-1250
The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe 950-1250
by R. I. Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.69

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and Exhilarating, 2 Aug. 2015
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This is a brilliantly presented thesis by a historian with an intimate grasp of his sources and of immense forensic skill clearly at the top of his game. His thesis is that "the eleventh and twelfth centuries saw what has turned out to be a permanent change in Western society. Persecution became habitual." The reason for this change lay in the consequences of the Gregorian Reform movement in the Church and its centralizing agenda.

Challenging as the original thesis is, it is also the incisively argued defence, in the face of criticism from other historians, which also makes it so enthralling. Erudite, lucid, compelling - what more could one wish from a book?

However, I believe a further refinement can be made to Moore's thesis in that the Gregorian Reform itself was not some idealised formulation of Christian belief and living - as often presented and no doubt understood by its practitioners -or some general aspect of church life. Rather it was the outcome of six centuries of the growing monasticization of the Church which resulted in the total distortion of Christianity dividing the church into 'proper Christians' (those committed to a celibate ritualised life) and the laity. Though monasticism has often been eulogized as the saviour of Western Civilization in the Dark Ages (cf. Kenneth Clark's 'Civilization') and its cultural achievement have impressed subsequent generations, monasticism is a parasitic growth on Christianity: it predated Christianity in its origins, is found in many other religious and its whole ethic of celibate and ascetic contempt for the world has more in common with neo-Platonism than the spirit of the Gospels and beatitudes of Christ. This spirit was captured in the apostolic life, recorded at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, when men and women came to live together in harmony and shared all things in common. It is no accident that the initial targets the persecuting society should be those seeking to recapture that spirit of the apostolic life in the face of increasingly clerical domination (often quite corrupt) and seen as such a threat to the hierarchy which increasingly ran the church as a monastic institution. It is monasticism, and its ascetic principles of contempt for the world and its natural order, not to mention the ordinary laity, which for all its ideals is the real root of the persecuting society.

The conflict within the church - between a clericalized monasticism (originally monks were not ordained having no pastoral ministry) and the aspirations of lay people for a more spiritual life - is no where more clearly revealed than in the fate of the apostolic community founded by St Norbert in 1140 - a date seen by Moore, perhaps not without coincidence, as a turning point in the episcopal treatment of heretics (pg 23) - and also in the trajectory of Norbert's own life: his community at Premontre almost immediately became monasticized (into the Premonstratension order) and he himself left it to become archbishop of Magdeburg, promoting the ideals of the Gregorian Reform. In the renewal of religious life that following Vatican Council II the order struggled to reconcile these two very different facets of its history and founder, even to the point of changing its name into the Norbertines.

But the resolution of this dilemma lies in the clear recognition that the monastic influence on the history of the Church has ultimately been a disaster, traducing the original understanding of the church as an ekklesia - simply a gathering of the people, all the people, as an equal fraternity. The clerical power structure has frustrated a proper understanding of Christianity by imposing a ritualistic and legal framework (much as the Pharisees did on Judaism), frustrates any renewal (as in its thwarting of the reforming intentions of the Vatican Council), is corrupt (as witnesses by the endemic clerical sex abuse scandals), reactionary (as witnessed by the opposition to the attempt by the current pope to make the church more open and welcoming to those of differing morals or life styles) and has never abandoned, reformed or apologised for the most notorious institution of the persecuting society - the Inquisition, which, as the Holy Office or Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is still the most powerful institution in the Catholic Church and four of its administrators have gone on to become popes in the last century .

This book gives a valuable insight into how Christianity in general and Roman Catholicism in particular ran off the rails and, like Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor, finished up believing and practicing the opposite of what its founder intended.


Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Samir Okasha
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars False premise, 29 Jun. 2015
This book sets out to address, in the author's words, the 'ahistorical' presentation of science. He then goes on to state: "The origins of modern science lie in a period of rapid scientific development that occurred in Europe between the years 1500 and 1750." This is false and blatantly unhistorical.

As the distinguished mathematician and historian of science, A.N. Whitehead, wrote many decades ago, in his lectures "Science and the Modern World": "The truth is that science started its modern career by taking over ideas derived from the...philosophies of Aristotle's successors." (Ch 1; pg 21). This process began in twelfth century Europe and more specifically with the rise of the rise of the universities of Oxford and Paris. Whitehead also states the significance of this period: "It takes but a sentence to point out how the habit of definite exact thought was implanted in the European mind by the long dominance of scholastic logic and scholastic divinity." (pg.15) The habit of precise thinking was seminal to what followed.

This assessment was reaffirmed more recently by Steven Weinberg (himself a distinguished Nobel laureate) in "To Explain the World: The discovery of modern science" where he has a whole chapter on the significance of medieval Europe. Here he begins to unpick what to many will appear like arcane theological wranglings over what God can and cannot do proclaimed by rival religious orders, Franciscans and Dominicans. These led to several papal interventions culminating in 1323 which affirmed the legitimacy of 'the system of Aristotle and his commentator Averroes'. This is arguably the most important date in the history of science for it affirmed the importance of rational enquiry proposed by the Dominican Thomists. This is the moment when the switch was flicked to begin a long process of rational enquiry and experimentation, as witnessed by the work of the Merton Callculators and the friar Roger Bacon. Together with the rise of nominalism with William of Ockham and work of Nicole Oresme all provided the essential foundations of Europe's scientific development. (Details of these remarkable natural philosophers is to be found in James Hannam's 'God's Philospher's: How the Medieval World laid the Foundations of Modern Science' and whose subtitle really says it all.) As Weinberg notes, "Even though Aristotle was wrong about the laws of nature, it was important to affirm that there are laws of nature." (pg131)

Just how important this was to be for the future of European science can be appraised by looking across the Mediterranean to the Islamic world. After a meteoric rise scientific thinking suddenly began to stultify. In his study, 'Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science' Jim Al-Khalili lists over 70 scientists almost half of which belong to the first two centuries of Islam, before the eleventh century. Why this should be has been disputed with a number of factors but there can be no doubt that the decisive influence was of the eleventh century theologian Al Gazali - still regarded as the greatest Islamic theologian - who denounced as heretical all who attempted to limit or even understand the actions of God and denied the possibility of laws of nature: his denunciation included the likes of Aristotle and all the other Greek thinkers. Thus Islamic science was crushed by Islamic theology. The classic study by Etienne Gilson on 'The Unity of Philosophical experience: A Survey showing the unity of Medieval, Cartesian and Modern Philosophy' shows how, regardless of time and place, similar philosophical starting points deliver the same consequences. Again Weinberg has an excellent chapter on the details and consequences of this decision against rational enquiry which are still reverberating today and are at the heart of the clash between Islamists and Western modernity.

The importance of such theological disputes for the future of science has largely been forgotten and is now often ignored as the link between theology and science has long since been broken and the significance of believe relativized. Instead the consequent secular narrative likes to portray medieval obscurantism as a foil to the consequent rise western science and modernity. Just how distorted this view is has been narrated by, for example, the Cambridge theologian and philosopher Don Cupitt in 'The Meaning of the West; an apologia for secular Christianity ' where he clearly shows how modern secularism and the scientific mentality arose from and was shaped by its Christian roots. This is a view also of Larry Siedentop's splendid study in 'Inventing the Individual: The origins of Western Liberalism" - that secularism is the 'gift' of Christianity.

These are subtle and often counter-intuitive themes which took many unexpected twists and turns delivering unexpected outcomes but which have shaped European thought so as to create its most distinguishing feature, the critical thinking and methodology of science. This issue remains at the centre of the modern conflict conflict of our time between religious fundamentalisms and secularism.: the polarity is not all it may at first seem. For a book of the status of the Philosophy of Science in such a distinguished series to be apparently unaware of the true aetiology of scientific thought is disappointing.


Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence
Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence
Price: £6.99

8 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Global culprit evades detection - again!, 28 Jun. 2015
Surprisingly, just when we thought he/she/it/they had been banished by the tide of secularism they have returned with a vengeance. God, and attendant acolytes, have once more shot up to the top of the political and global agenda: rising religious hatred is a growing, potentially apocalyptic, problem. So what is the answer?

Generally, politicians and media guru's are flailing around for answers. One can hardly blame them for in a post-theological age who has the tools to deal with this issue? In contrast those who do often have a vested interest and are part of the problem. Jonathan Sacks (JS) is no exception. Though always erudite, he grapples with a problem he largely fails to define, let alone resolve.

Take the central issue of why even the most sublime monotheisms still finish up dividing people into 'them' and 'us' - or as the medieval crusading ballad 'The Song of Roland' puts it, the 'right' (us) and 'wrong' (them). JS would have us believe this is something 'instinctive', hard-wired into our DNA. Sounds good! But decades the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm gave an much more convincing - and very different - explanation: "Precisely because man has LESS (emphasis added) instinctive equipment than any other animal, he does not recognize or identify co-species as easily as animals." ('The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness' Ch 7 pg 175) As a result humans resort to cultural indicators - language, customs, dress, etc. From this follows a paradox that precisely because humans/ us lack instinctive equipment the experience of the stranger is as if he belongs to a different species. Which leads to Fromm's truly frightening, but historically verifiable, conclusion: "it is man's humanity that makes him so inhuman".

Monotheism not only provides no answer to this reality, it exacerbates it. This is partly because, whatever defence its proponents may like to mount, it is never as 'pure' as it likes to think. It too has evolved, like any other human idea, under particular historical circumstances (very different from what JS likes to believe: monotheism is the product not of revelation but of Hellenistic philosophical monism which became influential in the post-exilic Middle East and subsequently redacted into the Jewish scriptures). It has often been syncretized with previous moral practices and beliefs, some of which, as in Islam, are no more than primitive tribal practices which many now find barbaric - FGM, circumcision, mutilation and heading, the 'honour' system, etc. All such things acquire, with invincible monotheism, an absolute and unchallengable status - just ask Raif Badawi (that's if you can get into his solitary prison cell). When adherents start to talk of 'special election', 'divine right' and 'holy' lands the consequence is always the same: 'holy' war. As Brigadier-General Ofer Winter told his troops before blasting Gaza to smithereens last summer, it was a great merit to fight against terrorists who dare "to scorn the God of Israel". This is a wonderfully modern expression of the primitive militarism of putative patriarchal monotheism. So, yes, definitely in God's name!

Though JS takes us around the theological houses, or encampments, he never really comes to terms with the central issue: monotheism is not 'one thing'. In fact the word is something of a misnomer as it can be as variable as polytheism or henotheism: the various manifestations of the great Jehovah are remarkably varied and have little resemblance to the putative nature of Allah whilst as for the triune Godhead of Christianity, well that's another story altogether. Even dense theological studies, such as Martin Henry's 'On not understanding God', tend to add more confusion than light, whilst the one with probably the best claim to be the originator of the idea, Zarathustra, often gets ignored altogether. His latter day descendants, the Yezedi, have been subjected to the most vicious cruelty by the so-called 'monotheistic brigades' of Isis. In essence the thesis of JS - that the ubiquitous love of God presents a challenge to all humanity - is little different to the plea made in the thirteenth century in similar conflicted circumstance by the poet Wolfram von Essenbach: it will probably fail for similar reasons, prominent among which are confessional prejudice and fear.

Despite what JS might like to think, grand narratives, such as 'Abrahamic faith' and its off-springs, though impressive on first sight, on closer inspection become vacuous, if not meaningless - biblical literary criticism has long since taken us beyond that, still popular, narrative of monotheism. As Harold Bloom summarised with admirable precision, in 'The Book of J' pg 31, "Archaic Judaism is all but totally unknown to us. We know the rabbinical Judaism that has been dominant since the second century C.E and we know, more or less, what Judaism judged to be the chain of tradition that extended from Ezra the great Redactor to the Pharisees of Akiba...What we do not know is the Judaism that was available to the Yahwist, and the history, or mythology, of that Judaism." Two centuries ago Bishop Colenso, amongst others, outraged both hierarchy and congregations by such works as 'The Pentateuch and Joshua Critically Examined', showing revealed scripture was perhaps not all it claimed to be: obviously learning is a slow and not always progressive process!

But the main problem for all monotheisms is that regardless of the 'nice' and 'nasty' bits, the sublime and the silly, they all succeed - of their very nature - in dividing humanity. This problem has begun to be transcended - though no religious leader is ever likely to admit this - with the growth of critical thinking ('enlightenment') and secularism which since at least the time of Spinoza has placed us all in the same box, and God in the human mind. This is not a utopian dream but simply the recognition of reality - there is only one humanity with all the same rights. Once we grasp this epistemic shift the problem of divisive religious fanaticism begins to dissolve. True, there is still the problem of secular ideological fundamentalisms, with their mimetic millenarianism and delusional utopianisms, but this is another giant that can be slain through critical reflection and the affirmation of humanity - just look at what this did to the Soviet Union!

However, the reason we are still talking about all this and the key element of current concern is that it is not only about religion but another 'monotheism' - understood as an the attempt by the human mind to impose unity on the diversity of experience - which JS completely misses: the utopian ambition of neo-liberal democracy propelled by its turbo capitalist economics to take over the world and the belief that it should. Whatever you may think of the 'McWorld' vision like all utopianisms it seeks one landscape, one solution, one order which does not permit deviation from its own homogenizing corporate agenda. It is this new 'monotheism' - which still retains a significant element of Christian Providential inevitability and so-called 'Judaeo-Christian' beliefs - particularly in the minds of its corporate American (Republican) protagonists - that has prompted an increasingly violent reaction in many parts of the world and which, like Lazarus, feel excluded from the rich man's table but are not prepared to await any longer a deferred judgement. This is particularly true of the traditionalist Muslim societies of the Orient. 'Radical Islam' is an anti-model of the West - which is precisely what makes it so hard for those in the West to understand it - and from resentment of which it draws its parasitic strength, as it does its technology. And this is how the caliphate of Isis sees its challenge and mission: not just toppling Assad but the infidel West. Not just a clash of civilizations then but a clash of highly politicized and economized monotheisms in which 'God' is clearly a proxy or persona(mask) for some very different agendas.

The real solution to all this is the recognition many are loath to make: that there is no Truth, Meaning, Purpose, Destiny in life - all the grand narratives the restless human mind has always sought in order to enhance its cosmological status - but simply Life. Life, ordinary, everyday life. We should respect it in its totality (all of the living biosphere) and get on with living and letting live: for this refreshingly alternative view read Don Cupitt's recent 'Creative Faith: Religion as a Way of Worldmaking'. Be humane in a post-instinctive rational way. That is the real cure for the problem of God, and 'his' (yes its all about patriarchy!) zealots.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2015 3:51 PM GMT


Creative Faith: Religion as a Way of Worldmaking
Creative Faith: Religion as a Way of Worldmaking
by Don Cupitt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.95

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new philosophy of life, 12 Jun. 2015
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This is Don Cupitt's fiftieth book - yes that's right FIFTY! Over the years he has produce a superb corpus of work looking at the nature of faith in the modern world. He also inspired the Sea of Faith movement which considers religion as a cultural creation. His works are always lucid, informative and informal prompting us on to further thought.

This latest work is no exception encouraging us to see how ethics is not going to disappear with the removal of supernatural belief - as some fear - but really releases the potentiality of everyday life and ordinariness - we can be, indeed, must be, creative in our everyday lives, cast aside restrictive resentment and be outgoing, solar, like the sun.

For those who are not so sure this was always the heart of Christianity - for the challenge of the Sermon on the Mount is recognition that the sun shines on the just and unjust alike. The fundamental ethical insights of so many religions has been strangulated by the sclerotic hand of ritual, hierarchy and clericalism. Time to move on.

I remain amazed at how little regard or attention is given to the writings of Don Cupitt in religious and philosophical circles where it is assumed we will continue to get by on some form of traditionalist fare, when in fact this only feeds fundamentalist obscurantism. This is a work to enrich our perception and feeling.


Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now
Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now
by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but flawed., 9 Jun. 2015
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This is a very valuable book which gives a much needed insight into the Muslim mind and Islamic world. It is lucidly written, extremely well informed and benefits from a depth of personal experience as well as academic background. I have passed the book on to friends who all thought the same.

Despite the extreme sensitivity of the subject and the polemics that surround it this is not a partisan book but a balanced presentation with the author managing to maintain a commendable stance of rational detachment and analysis. Her main thesis is that the problems that arise from Islam – particularly in its extreme form - can be corrected through reform and are largely a result of Islam never having had a Reformation comparable to European Christianity.

I have three main problems with this thesis. One, acknowledged by Ayaan herself, is that no reform movement in the history of Islam has ever succeeded in the past and the very nature of Islamic thinking is that any attempt to initiate one is of its nature heretical and to be crushed. The current fate of Raif Badawi is itself indicative of what happens to anyone who might even suggest that some reform may be necessary or cannot quite comply with everything demanded by what, after all, is a very complex and disparate religious tradition: the illusion of a ‘simple’ orthodoxy beguiles clerical power structures and in turn is a fundamental part of the problem.

Secondly, the precedent of the Reformation is not what it may seem in its outcomes. This merely led to the violent fragmentation of Christendom and decades of unspeakable savagery which was only resolved by temporal powers separating individual belief from public policy based on rational principles and human rights – the leitmotiv of the Enlightenment. Accompanying this – from the time of Spinoza – was the reformulation of our understanding of God, transforming monotheism to monism and relegating beliefs to states of mind rather than objective reality (unlike seventh century Arabian tribesmen we now fully understand how humans created monotheism in the Hellenistic period of post-exilic Judaism). It is this that is the real challenge to Islamic religion in the light of modern understanding: separating what are undeniably commendable ethical values and cultural traditions from their traditional theological underpinnings. This is the sort of post-Christian thinking espoused by the Sea of Faith network and is the real consequence of the Reformation: God and religion are to be seen as human creations in which wisdom is not supernaturally dispensed from on high but inseparable from the poetic genius of humanity.

Thirdly, all this could be largely secondary (and irrelevant) in the light of a much greater challenge which Ayaan does not consider at all: environmentalism. Without a fundamental change of mindset on behalf of everyone this now threatens to swamp all other issues and the sustainable future of humanity itself. In Syria we see not only a religious conflict of extreme ideologies but also one which has been triggered by regional environmental collapse: a decade of drought leading to the collapse of farming, migration to increasingly overpopulated towns with no employment, increasing social unrest and resentment at oppressive government exacerbated by religious divisions and ideological radicalization: interestingly increasing desiccation has paralleled the rise of Isis. This could well be a harbinger of twenty first century life. Of the many voices calling for a completely different mindset there are those, like Thomas Berry and Lloyd Geering (both clergymen), who point out that this issue has been all but ignored by traditional religious teachings. The focus now, must be on nature as the new source of ‘revelation’ and the recognition of the oneness of life – monozoism. Without this new mindset the future for humanity looks increasingly bleak and the religious teachings from the past – which have played no small role in creating the current situation - simply irrelevant.

On a more general level, for any religion claiming to be based on revelation modernity presents particular problems. We now know enough about psychiatry and states of mind to understand that putative revelatory experiences are a fairly normal part of what makes us human; some would argue, like Dr David Horrobin in The Madness of Adam and Eve: How schizophrenia shaped Humanity, that they are a distinctive feature of the working of the human mind, particularly in states of stress or extreme circumstances, such as malnutrition and isolation. So we have St John the Divine in his cave receiving the dictation of the Book of Revelation, St Anthony of Egypt (the founder of Western monasticism) in his cave plagued by graphic dreams, or St. Joan of Arc receiving angelic ‘voices’ urging military action, of Joseph Smith receiving the revelation from the angel Mormon, Handel ‘seeing’ the heavens open and receiving the inspiration for the music of ‘The Messiah’. Though, as Freud said there are no ‘untruths’ in psychiatry, we understand such states of mind as entirely subjective or veridical hallucinations. In so far as they may contain useful information they are an expression of the immense creative potential of consciousness which some scientists now even claim creates the reality we know.

Two things are common to such states of mind. One is the amount of detail they can conjure up – usually provided by an angelic intermediary - just as Ayaan relates of the enormous amount of detail Muslims seem to have about the next life: where has all this come from and why is it so obviously a projection of male fantasy and suppressed sexuality? (No doubt Freud would have something to say about this!) Secondly, anyone who questions such divinely sourced ‘information’ is seen as a threat or evil prompting extreme and often violent reaction: again, Ayaan notes just how incredibly paranoid and violent Muslim reaction can be to any challenge to their beliefs: the more insubstantial the foundation, the more violent the reaction. She rightly characterizes the fundamental problem for Muslims in the face of Modernity as being one of cognitive dissonance, through which two contradictory and mutually exclusive views of the world drive the individual to extreme behavior (‘radicalisation’). Sadly, as this is not a rational state there is no rational solution and any attempts to provide one, such as the arguments in this book, are doomed to failure. What is needed is education - education not as imparting information or dogma but education as enriching our perception and feeling - and also therapy; but then whose going to provide therapy for 1.4 billion people, some already approaching with Kalashnikovs and suicide vests?

Critical thinking, on which Ayaan places so much emphasis, reveals that human origins and history are in no way specially privileged: we create our own reality - God, language, culture and worldview comprise a totality which have evolved within our own past conversations amongst ourselves. Like every other 'reality' it will in time crumble and pass away; everything is transient as we are; everything pours itself out and passes away for ever. In the meantime we should 'pour ourselves out' for the benefit of all in kindness to all. Such solar living, one day at a time, is our only 'purpose' and meaning.


The Moses Legacy: The Evidence of History
The Moses Legacy: The Evidence of History
by Graham Phillips
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revelation!, 25 May 2015
Having spent much of my life reading and teaching about the Bible I found, after reading this book, myself to be in a state of shock at how much I had missed or been mistaken about. This book opened up whole new horizons for me in a way no other work has done by even the most eminent scripture scholars. Amongst these new perspectives I would mention:
1. The significance of the volcanic eruption of Thera (c1360BCE) for the Bronze Age world. Located as it was in the epicentre of the Aegean and the civilized world its cataclysmic effects have been charted before on material and social life. However, its effects on mental states and spiritual understanding must have been equally profound but now much harder to chart. Phillips does a great job in exploring this vein in the context of the dramatic changes in Egyptian belief - with the emergence of Atenism - and the events surrounding the Exodus, all of which it explains in a totally new light. Also post volcanic effects credibly explain all the plagues of Egypt.
2.The careful exegesis which suggests that Moses is in fact a composite figure from two other identifiable and historical Egyptian figures. This compliments our understanding of the whole of the Pentateuch being a composed from multiple literary strands as suggested by Bishop John Colenso and whose work, 'The Pentateuch and Joshua Critically Examined', shocked and scandalised Victorian society, as well as ruining his career. A theme also taken up by the more influential German scholar Julius Wellhausen
3. The significance of Edom and the Edomites in the history of the Jewish people. Usually viewed as something of a sideshow to the main theatre of events in Israel and Judah, Phillips helps us to see that this was far from being the case either politically or spiritually.
4. The real location of the sites connected with Moses and the Exodus. Phillips credibly pieces together the evidence that this is totally at odds with the traditional location of Mt Sinai (a location originally dreamt up by the Emperor Justinian) and the wilderness of Paran but located at sites around the vicinity of the city of Petra, which is far more ancient than the Nabeteans. Phillips credibly identifies the location of the tomb of Moses and even his staff with which he smote Pharaoh and cleft the Dead Sea - who would have thought it would finish up in Birmingham Museum!

In all Phillips helps us to unpack the biblical myth and penetrate the reality it obscures with the artifice of afterthought and polemical intent. Though one is still left with some reservations.
1. The cult of Aten was not so much shaped by previous Jewish beliefs of a putative handful of 'slaves' but the other way round. This radical belief system and view of the world had its own roots in the sophisticated world of Egyptian gnosis (to use a later word) and clearly influenced some biblical reflection on the nature of God.
2. The Kuntillet fragment of potsherd from about 800BCE found at Horvat Teman (which Phillips does not mention but which is in the locality he identifies to be The Mountain of the Lord, Horeb), clearly shows Yahweh and his consort indicating him to be a tribal deity and variant mountain storm god (Baal). A contemporaneous inscription found near Hebron which reads, "Blessed be Yahweh my guardian and his Asherah (consort)" supports this reading. This is very different from the monotheistic interpretation which would later be placed on the understanding of this god, in the light of a reconjectured Mosaic revelation on Sinai.

The 'God' that Phillips is looking for which underpins the three monotheistic faiths and western civilization is a later creation of the Hellenistic period and owes its confection to Zoroastrian and Greek though - but that's another story.
All in all, a book which is a great revelation in itself and a prompt to further thought.


Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning
Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning
by Massimo Faggioli
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pearl of great price., 22 Feb. 2015
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This is a brilliant book. Beautifully written in a clear lucid style it surveys the controversy that still surrounds this epochal event with a forensic discernment which is both informed and incisive in its analysis. For a short work it manages an almost magisterial overview of the event of Vatican II and it's subsequent interpretations which is balanced and detached, steering a clear course through some very turbulent waters. Though one may suspect where the writer's sympathies lie - at least he acknowledges there are ongoing 'issues' - he maintains a commendable impartiality in his presentation and assessments. I know of no other work which condenses so much scholarship with such clarity on this topic. All in all a usefult work which does justice to a seminal event of modern times and is a credit to the mentality it pioneered.


George Tyrrell and the Catholic Tradition
George Tyrrell and the Catholic Tradition
by Ellen M. Leonard
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A tragic victim of modernity, 29 Jan. 2015
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Having spent many years in the monastery where Tyrrell spent some of his last days and living in a room overlooking his grave I feel a great affinity with a man whose career has echoed my own. This is a balanced, informed and insightful narrative of a controversial figure whose life and work still has much to tell us.


John XXIII: Pope of the Council
John XXIII: Pope of the Council
by Peter Hebblethwaite
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding biography of an outstanding man, 29 Jan. 2015
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Brilliantly written and incredibly well informed with perceptive evaluation. A real treasure which does justice to a great man.


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