07 June 2009

Book Update

It’s high time I posted a book update here at Logismoi. Acquisitions have remained steady (for me, that is) the past couple of weeks, and there is much to tell.

First, I must thank my kind reader, Bishop Savas of Troas, for sending me a copy of Peter C. Bouteneff’s Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerAcademic, 2008). Beginning with Philo and St Paul, Bouteneff then traces the development of Christian exegesis of Genesis 1-3. As Fr Andrew Louth writes in his blurb on the back cover:

In this fine book, Peter Bouteneff presents a carefully researched and scholarly reading of early Christian readings of the creation account in Genesis. What emerges is a range of interlocking insights into God’s creative purpose and the human place in the cosmos. Genesis 1-3 is seen as neither a myth nor an outdated scientific account, but a poem of creation, yielding deeper meanings upon closer ponderings. Bouteneff unveils the often surprising riches of our patristic inheritance with a rare intelligence and passion.
I eagerly look forward to reading this book through, although I’d like to get some more serious work done on the last third or so of my thesis before I start on Bouteneff. I would ask all readers to say a prayer that God grant me much-needed diligence! But my sincerest gratitude goes out to His Grace. If more bishops sent more books to more bloggers, perhaps there would be more respect for the hierarchy in general!

Sometime around the arrival of the Bouteneff book, I chanced to be at a local St Vincent de Paul thrift store that was having a 50%-off sale on everything. Naturally, I bought a couple of things that wouldn’t have caught my eye in the least if they hadn’t been surrounded by the typical thrift-store books and if they hadn’t been 50%-off of an already very low price. First, I picked up Bernard Shaw’s play, Saint Joan, in an old Penguin edition (1982 reprint). Second, I got Ann Radcliffe’s 1797 Gothic novel, The Italian—an illuminating example of the British attitude toward Italy and the Roman Catholic Church in the late eighteenth century—, in an Oxford World’s Classics edition (1998).

But I also found two books that I would have bought even without the sale and the less-than-appealing shelf-mates: William J. Bennett’s, The Moral Compass: Stories for a Life’s Journey (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1995), a companion to his earlier The Book of Virtues, and William S. Anderson’s heavily annotated edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Books 6-10 (Norman, OK: U of Oklahoma, 1972). The former has a great deal of appeal to me as a parent and a moral theologian, and the latter as someone who would like one day to work seriously on his Latin!

Next, I visited my favourite snobby used bookshop, Aladdin, where I discovered two Charles Williams books that weren’t there last time I visited. I went ahead and purchased the rare Witchcraft (Berkeley, CA: Apocryphile, 2005), a study contracted by T.S. Eliot for Faber that I had long hoped to find. Sadly, I had to leave the other, a combination of He Came Down from Heaven and Outlines of Romantic Theology by the same publisher, on hold until I had a few more dollars to play with.

But the good news was two of the best were still to come. Friday I received two books by the famous student of Fr Justin (Popovich), Bishop Athanasius (Yevtich): Christ: The Alpha and Omega, ed. St Herman of Alaska Monastery (Alhambra, CA: Western American Diocese, 2007), and Emmanuel: The Only Begotten and Firstborn Among Many Brethren, ed. St Herman of Alaska Monastery (Alhambra, CA: Sebastian, 2008). I had of course heard of Bishop Athanasius, from Ora et Labora among other places, and I actually read a piece in Greek, ‘Τό περιβάλλον καί τό πρόσωπο’ (here, and there are others as well) that covered some of the same ground as one of the pieces in the first book: ‘Socialism and the Ecclesial Community: A commentary on a text of Dostoyevsky’, pp. 237-43. But now I look forward to really getting into him. I have already devoured the lecture, ‘The Holy Fathers and the Holy Scriptures’ (Christ, pp. 25-40), much of it an extended critique of Milton’s theology which I will now have to go back and reference in my thesis.

Well, that is pretty much it for the past couple of weeks—plenty to get excited about in my opinion! I will keep Logismoi readers updated on my reading of any of these books, and will continue to post excerpts as time and the appropriate material present themselves.


Anonymous said...

Please do: and I must say your bookshelves must be groaning under the weight of such tomes... I'd be embarrased to link some of my reading compared to the meatier topics you're covering. And thanks indeed to His Grace Bishop Savas for such a wondrous gift.

And my continued prayers for your thesis.

+Savas of Troas said...

"The pleasure of reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books."

Katherine Mansfield

orrologion said...

I have enjoyed the half of "Beginnings" I have read so far and recommend it as an important companion to "Creation, Genesis and Early Man" from Platina and St. Basil's more literal Hexaemeron. Your Hexaemeron by St. Anastasius of Sinai and the two ACCS volumes on Genesis are also important texts when considering Genesis.

I grew up in a strictly creationist church (WELS) and have need of greater reflection on the creation accounts in Genesis. I appreciate Fr. Seraphim and Platina's work regarding evolution, but there is a purely patristic context that allows for a non-literal reading of Genesis - which sola Scriptura Protestants are not allowed without ceasing to be such.

So, I have found the book challenging in the same way textual criticism of the Bible is challenging to me. I'm not quite sure what to make of it, not quite sure who I should trust, not quite sure there is as little danger as Orthodox devotees of either position/discipline seem to accept, but find that it is important to understand so as to better understand the intellectual critiques that can drive or keep people outside of the Church.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

I had never heard of Apocryphile Press, and they are just down the hill from me! We share the same (wretched) post office. What a very interesting press they are. They're obviously fans of Charles Williams. I recognize numerous of their older additions on the apocrypha/pseudepigrapha, both OT and NT. Maybe I'll stop by and say hello.

I'll have to bump the Bouteneff up in the queue. I nearly picked it up in my last Amazon plundering expedition, but the release (finally!) of Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity, which I'd been waiting for, distracted me.

I must insist that you cease listing all these interesting-looking books. I think I shall otherwise end up eating only rice (dry) and living in a hut constructed of the books I've bought at Aaron Taylor's recommendation.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

In California, additions = editions.

At least for today.

orrologion said...

Well, anything goes in California - especially Berkeley. Stick it to the man!

aaronandbrighid said...

Ian> Don't worry. What you don't see is all of the frivolous Internet reading I do, or the YouTubing!

Bishop> Quite true.

Christopher> Yes, I know what you mean.

Kevin> I hadn't even thought of checking out their catalogue yet. I'm sure I was afraid it would just open up another bottomless pit of more books I want (I couldn't help but notice Williams's Poetry at the Present). I'd like to see a hut matching the description you give.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to here you are going to review "Beginnings". My wife was going to get me that book a few weeks ago, but ended up getting me "Golden Mouth" by J.N.D. Kelly. Good book so far, though

- Andrew

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Well, at this point, Aaron, the hut would be a very small hut indeed, perhaps fitting for a mouse. I'm concerned about the future, though. You know of too many apparently very interesting books.

aaronandbrighid said...

'You know of too many apparently very interesting books' sounds like a pretext for having me eliminated.

I've got a post or two planned for Wednesday with even more interesting books.