The Recovery of the Holy Land, A Review

May 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Dubois, Pierre. The Recovery of the Holy Land, Translated with and introduction and Notes by Walther I. Brandt, Columbia University Press, New York 1956. 239 pages with works cited and index.

This book is both a proposal and a plea addressed to Edward I of England involving things of general nature such as peace, reform of the Church, education and an outlined proposal meant for the King only suggesting a crusade to rescue Palestine from Moslem hands.

Pierre Dubois provide a first hand look at the propositioning for the plan of a new crusade. After the fall of Acre (1291), most proponents of a new crusade were aware that a frontal attack on the coast of Palestine would be doomed to almost certain failure, and turned their attention to the possibility of a flanking movement. Dubois plan for a new crusade, despite his laudatory phrases in praise of Edward I of England, was based on the premise that the French would assume the leadership. Dubois felt that if was first necessary to establish peace in Europe and reform the Church in head and members. Dubois recommended that monastic disciplines be reestablished and the military orders be united into one, under new leadership. An important feature of Dubois’ schemes was new educational system whose primary purpose would be to train the youth of both sexes for service in the East.

The second part of the Recovery, intended only for the eyes of Philip and his close advisors, Dubois turned his attention to French problems. Dubois challenged that the King defend his realm by summoning feudatories to military service and, in the case of ultimate necessity, he might seize the property of churches and ecclesiastes. By establishing the French hegemony over the West, the king could then could enforce feudal obligation and sponsor a successful crusade that would give him control of the Holy Land. We may fairly conclude, then, that Dubois’ truly original ideas comprised little more than his definite plan for a system of international arbitration and the proposal for the establishment of a system of schools which should regularly admit women to professional training.

Overall I thought this text was somewhat long winded although it is fairly short in length. It seems to me that Dubois does not feel that coming out and saying what he intends would really help his cause so he somewhat tones it down. I still could relate to this book even though it was written in the Middle Ages and was quite surprised to the fact as how he went about justifying some of his proposals. I would recommend this book for someone who desires to look into rhetoric lying behind a push for Holy War as a desire to establish personal and self-succeeding goals.

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The Apostolic Fathers, A Review

May 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lake, Kirsopp. The Apostolic Fathers. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: W. Heineman. 1985-1992. 293 pp.

This book is a collection of documents, not chosen for the Bible, that were written soon after Christ’s Crucifixion during the early spread of Christianity.

The Apostolic Fathers is an intriguing look into the early Christian Church it’s structure and their practices. The book is a collection of writing including ‘The Teaching of the Apostles’, I and II Clement, The Epistles of Ignatius, Barnabas, Polycarp and Hermes. The book covers the generation or more that apostles and prophets coexisted with the local ministry of bishops and deacons. Given in this source are directions for baptism, fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays, the correct form of the Lord’s Prayer, and eucharistic prayers. Clement features the two-tiered ministry in his writing in Chapter XIX of his first book. Warnings of exploitation of the distribution of alms runs rampant throughout the translations and exhortations to live a life of obedience stand out probably directed to those people who became Christians for very worldly reasons.

I learned many things from this book that I felt were unique and did not know before. The first thing I learned is that the reason these books were left out of the Bible was that none of the works claimed to be apostolic, so therefore they were on a slightly lower level than those books excepted into the canon. The next thing that stood out to me where the constant references to the Old Testament and Gospels and the introduction or emphasis placed upon the Holy Ghost. Barnabas, possibly written for the Ebionites, does a good job of using prophecies in Daniel and then illustrations of a scape goat and red heifer to further show the types of Christ. Ignatius is filled with many exhortations of obedience and devotion to Christ. Ignatius goes further and emphasized the importance of unity and his own personal desire to suffer. The ‘Shepherd of Hermas’ warned that on station days the fasting that God required was abstinence from evil acts and desires. I particularly like Command VII on fearing God, but not the Devil.

I thought the book was very good and felt that it was very interesting looking back upon the works of lesser status, but certainly not of importance. The one thing that I seems to have stood out to me is each author’s desire for authority, which their references strive to grasp. I would recommend this book with anyone already familiar with the books of the New Testament who is looking to go a little bit further in their search for the direction and spirit of the early church.

Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, A Review

May 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Pagels, Elaine.  Adam, Eve, and the Serpent. New York: Vintage Books. 1989. 154 pp.

This book is a historical investigation on how early Christians confronted the controversies surrounding sexuality, freedom and sin as embodied in Genesis.

In Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, Pagels takes us on a fast paced journey through the history of the early Christians, and their interpretations of Genesis, beginning with Jesus and Paul and going up until the death of Augustine. The book begins with a look at the first two centuries of the church, and gives us an overview of the creation account in Genesis, which leads us into the question of which did the early Christians consider more virtuous marriage or celibacy. Pagels goes to great depths to show the 2nd century mass persecutions of Christians by the Roman state for refusing to acknowledge the Roman gods as their God. Pagels uses the accounts of martyrs, coupled with the steady expansion of the faith in spite of the persecution, to substantiate her view that many social and political issues involving the state and church relationship went into the early Christians interpretations of Genesis, especially involving freedom and sin. Pagels devotes an entire chapter to Gnostic improvisations on Genesis and then goes into the changes involving the adoption of Christianity by the Roman government and the book by showing the role of the orthodox church, in particular Augustine’s opinions, in the debate over original sin and free will.

The main thing that caught my eye during the reading of this book was the vast acceptance that celibacy was a superior way of life to marriage. I’ve read the bible verses referred to in the Bible, but I had never quite seen them as real and literal as Pagels presents the early Christians interpreting them. Her martyrdom accounts were very vivid and almost draw the reader into the position of the martyr. Before reading this book I did not know martyr means “witness” in Greek and was struck by the quote of the North African convert Tertullian: “The more we are mown down by you, the more we multiply : the blood of the Christians is seed!” Another perspective I incorporated from this book was that after Christianity was adopted by the Roman Empire all was not smooth sailing. The orthodox had set themselves up in such opposition to the state that they had a hard time reinterpreting some of their scriptural justifications of the wickedness of corrupt rulers and man’s authority (the Roman senate) being that of demons. The last item that I must admit being introduced to was the controversy surrounding original sin and free will between Augustine and Julian. It was also hard to believe that Augustine’s views may have been adopted, by the church, solely to the fact they required people to lean on the church more wholly.

In conclusion I must say that the depth of insight Pagels uses in recounting the trials and tribulations of the early Christians is captivating. This book should be viewed as a historical investigation not a religious interpretation because Pagels incorporates social, political and personal views of the early Christians to give her analysis of their views on sexuality, freedom and sin. I would suggest this book to anyone interested in finding more about early Christian culture, their thought process and the external influences that made them think this way.

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