I’m just going to clean out my email box and post all the great links you folks have passed along here. Then when I get home, we’ll start all over again since, I hope, my brain will back in business and DVC-free.
We know much about the Italian city states—the “communes”—of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. But historians have focused on their political accomplishments to the exclusion of their religious life, going so far as to call them “purely secular contrivances.” When religion is considered, the subjects are usually saints, heretics, theologians, and religious leaders, thereby ignoring the vast majority of those who lived in the communes.
In Cities of God, Augustine Thompson gives a voice to the forgotten majority —orthodox lay people and those who ministered to them. Thompson positions the Italian republics in sacred space and time. He maps their religious geography as it was expressed through political and voluntary associations, ecclesiastical and civil structures, common ritual life, lay saints, and miracle-working shrines. He takes the reader through the rituals and celebrations of the communal year, the people’s corporate and private experience of God, and the “liturgy” of death and remembrance. In the process he challenges a host of stereotypes about “orthodox” medieval religion, the Italian city-states, and the role of new religious movements in the world of Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, and Dante.
Cities of God is bold, revisionist history in the tradition of Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars. Drawing on a wide repertoire of ecclesiastical and secular sources, from city statutes and chronicles to saints’ lives and architecture, Thompson recaptures the religious origins and texture of the Italian republics and allows their inhabitants a spiritual voice that we have never heard before. ——————————————————————————–
Augustine Thompson, O.P. is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and History at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Revival Preachers and Politics in Thirteenth-Century Italy (1992) and, with James Gordley, Gratian: The Treatise on Laws with the Ordinary Gloss (1993).
This new book argues that the four Gospels are closely based on eyewitness testimony of those who knew Jesus. Noted New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham challenges the prevailing assumption that the accounts of Jesus circulated as “anonymous community traditions,” asserting instead that they were transmitted in the name of the original eyewitnesses. To drive home this controversial point, Bauckham draws on internal literary evidence, study of personal names in the first century, and recent developments in the understanding of oral traditions.
Jesus and the Eyewitnesses also taps into the rich resources of modern study of memory and cognitive psychology, refuting the conclusions of the form critics and calling New Testament scholarship to make a clean break with this long-dominant tradition. Finally, Bauckham challenges readers to end the classic division between the “historical Jesus” and the “Christ of faith,” proposing instead the “Jesus of testimony.” Sure to ignite heated debate on the precise character of the testimony about Jesus, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses will be valued by scholars, students, and all who seek to understand the origins of the Gospels.
I have been amazed at not just the reaction of Catholic-related groups (after all the book and film are frontal attacks on the Catholic Church), but also the reaction of the Protestant churches. It’s ironic, but perhaps The Da Vinci Code has done more for ecumenical work between Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants than any other previous measure.
Point in case?
Many Protestant (and Catholic and Orthodox) churches are holding Da Vinci Code related "Bible" studies. As a byproduct, those studies often touch upon Catholic theology. Sure, the interpretation of that theology might not be "kosher" to Catholic or Orthodox thinking, but it nonetheless shows that at least people are trying to understand the key differences between major Christian denominations.
More specifically, these Bible studies often have background reading materials, such as John Allen’s book on Opus Dei. This has lead to curious circumstances in my own life, where my little brother — who is an Assemblies of God pastor — has actually defended me and Opus Dei to others. In fact, in one particular case the pastor of his church — mind you an evangelical — said that in his opinion members of Opus Dei were Christians, and were living the Catholic faith and should be honored for it.
That sort of thinking is nothing short of amazing in the minds of some.