The Cultural Reception of the Bible: Explorations in Theology, Literature and the Arts
by Salvador Ryan & Liam M. Tracey OSM (Open Air / Four Courts Press, €50.00)
With essays by over 30 contributors from Prof. Thomas O’Loughlin to the poet John F. Deane, this compendium covers a very wide range of topics and eras.
“The Bible is undoubtedly the most influential ‘book’ that the world has ever known,” the editors observe. “In these essays, this wide-ranging volume examines the cultural impact of biblical texts, from the early Middle Ages to the present day, on areas such as theology, philosophy, ethics, ecology, politics, literature, art, music and film.”
It is intended as a festschrift in honour of Fr Brendan McConvey the Biblical scholar. With changing times Fr McConvey found a home in Maynooth towards the end of his career “where he could contemplate significant changes to the Catholic Church in Irish life.”
Many of the distressing aspects of those changes are down quite simply not to prejudice but to ignorance. Anything that counters ignorance, and especially ignorance of the complicated and explorative nature of modern Biblical studies, is a contribution to European civilisation.
This then is an important book, but the sheer variety means that readers will be tempted to pick out themes that interest them immediately. But once the book is in hand they will find themselves being tempted into other areas with which they are less familiar. While not a book for the drawing room, this is certainly a book with every institutional library should have, and which most scholars will wish to consult and, indeed, to own.
The Merciful Humility of God
by Jane Williams (Bloomsbury Continuum, £9.99)
This little book was intended by its publishers as a Lent Book for 2019. The problem with such a marketing label is that many good books never get to be reviewed at that time, and as a result never come to the attention of readers who would be interested in them.
A good book will be a good book at any time of the year, and in any case, some Christians might well claim that to maintain a Lenten sprit all the year round might be a good thing. Certainly what she wants to draw out of her reflection of those 40 days has a far wider interest.
Lent leads up to the events of Good Friday and then to the event of Easter Sunday. It is here in his encounters with those who had been faithful to him earlier that the risen Lord shows his humility in embracing them in their weaknesses.
A thoughtful book (with aids to understanding and suggestions for further reading) is well worth acquiring for a summer or even autumn reading.