In March, the University of Chicago Press will release “The Mercenary Mediterranean: Sovereignty, Religion, and Violence in The Medieval Crown of Aragon,” by Hussein Fancy (University of Michigan). The publisher’s description follows:
Sometime in April 1285, five Muslim horsemen crossed from the Islamic kingdom of Granada into the realms of the Christian Crown of Aragon to meet with the king of Aragon, who showered them with gifts, including sumptuous cloth and decorative saddles, for agreeing to enter the Crown’s service.
They were not the first or only Muslim soldiers to do so. Over the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Christian kings of Aragon recruited thousands of foreign Muslim soldiers to serve in their armies and as members of their royal courts. Based on extensive research in Arabic, Latin, and Romance sources, The Mercenary Mediterranean explores this little-known and misunderstood history. Far from marking the triumph of toleration, Hussein Fancy argues, the alliance of Christian kings and Muslim soldiers depended on and reproduced ideas of religious difference. Their shared history represents a unique opportunity to reconsider the relation of medieval religion to politics, and to demonstrate how modern assumptions about this relationship have impeded our understanding of both past and present.
In March, Cambridge University Press will release “Christianity and Freedom: Volume 1. Historical Perspectives” edited by Timothy Samuel Shah (Georgetown University) and Allen D. Hertzke (University of Oklahoma). The publisher’s description follows:
In Volume 1 of Christianity and Freedom, leading historians uncover the unappreciated role of Christianity in the development of basic human rights and freedoms from antiquity through today. These include radical notions of dignity and equality, religious freedom, liberty of conscience, limited government, consent of the governed, economic liberty, autonomous civil society, and church-state separation, as well as more recent advances in democracy, human rights, and human development. Acknowledging that the record is mixed, scholars document how the seeds of freedom in Christianity antedate and ultimately undermine later Christian justifications and practices of persecution. Drawing from history, political science, and sociology, this volume will become a standard reference work for historians, political scientists, theologians, students, journalists, business leaders, opinion shapers, and policy makers.
In November, the Cambridge University Press released “Pagans and Christians in Late Antique Rome: Conflict, Competition, and Coexistence in the Fourth Century,” edited by Michele Renee Salzman (University of California, Riverside), Marianne Sághy (Central European University), and Rita Lizzi Testa (Università degli Studi di Perugia). The publisher’s description follows:
This book sheds new light on the religious and consequently social changes taking place in late antique Rome. The essays in this volume argue that the once-dominant notion of pagan-Christian religious conflict cannot fully explain the texts and artifacts, as well as the social, religious, and political realities of late antique Rome. Together, the essays demonstrate that the fourth-century city was a more fluid, vibrant, and complex place than was previously thought. Competition between diverse groups in Roman society – be it pagans with Christians, Christians with Christians, or pagans with pagans – did create tensions and hostility, but it also allowed for coexistence and reduced the likelihood of overt violent, physical conflict. Competition and coexistence, along with conflict, emerge as still central paradigms for those who seek to understand the transformations of Rome from the age of Constantine through the early fifth century.
- The most up-to-date analysis of the texts and archaeological evidence from late antique Rome
- Written by an international team of scholars with diverse backgrounds and approaches
- Illuminates new approaches to ancient history by addressing the nature of religious change in the largest city in the Mediterranean world – Rome
This month, Oxford University Press releases “Religions of the Constantinian Empire,” by Mark Edwards (University of Oxford). The publisher’s description follows:
Religions of the Constantinian Empire provides a synoptic review of Constantine’s relation to all the cultic and theological traditions of the Empire during the period from his seizure of power in the west in 306 CE to the end of his reign as autocrat of both east and west in 337 CE. Divided into three parts, the first considers the efforts of Christians to construct their own philosophy, and their own patterns of the philosophic life, in opposition to Platonism. The second assembles evidence of survival, variation or decay in religious practices which were never compulsory under Roman law. The “religious plurality” of the second section includes those cults which are represented as demonic burlesques of the sacraments by Firmicus Maternus. The third reviews the changes, both within the church and in the public sphere, which were undeniably prompted by the accession of a Christian monarch. In this section on “Christian polyphony,” Mark Edwards expertly moves on from this deliberate petrifaction of Judaism to the profound shift in relations between the church and the civic cult that followed the Emperor’s choice of a new divine protector.
The material in the first section will be most familiar to the historian of philosophy, that of the second to the historian of religion, and that of the third to the theologian. All three sections make reference to such factors as the persecution under Diocletian, the so-called “edict of Milan,”the subsequent legislation of Constantine, and the summoning of the council of Nicaea. Edwards does not maintain, however, that the religious and philosophical innovations of this period were mere by-products of political revolution; indeed, he often highlights that Christianity was more revolutionary in its expectations than any sovereign could afford to be in his acts.This authoritative study provides a comprehensive reference work for those studying the ecclesiastical and theological developments and controversies of the fourth century.
In February, Cambridge University Press will release “How Marriage Became One of the Sacraments: The Sacramental Theology of Marriage from its Medieval Origins to the Council of Trent” by Philiip Reynolds (Emory University). The publisher’s description follows:
Among the contributions of the medieval church to western culture was the idea that marriage was one of the seven sacraments, which defined the role of married folk in the church. Although it had ancient roots, this new way of regarding marriage raised many problems, to which scholastic theologians applied all their ingenuity. By the late Middle Ages, the doctrine was fully established in Christian thought and practice but not yet as dogma. In the sixteenth century, with the entire Catholic teaching on marriage and celibacy and its associated law and jurisdiction under attack by the Protestant reformers, the Council of Trent defined the doctrine as a dogma of faith for the first time but made major changes to it. Rather than focusing on a particular aspect of intellectual and institutional developments, this book examines them in depth and in detail from their ancient precedents to the Council of Trent
In December, Routledge released “Eastern Rome and the Rise of Islam: History and Prophecy,” by Olof Heilo (Center for Middle Eastern Studies in Lund). The publisher’s description follows:
The emergence of Islam in the seventh century AD still polarises scholars who seek to separate religious truth from the historical reality with which it is associated. However, history and prophecy are not solely defined by positive evidence or apocalyptic truth, but by human subjects, who consider them to convey distinct messages and in turn make these messages meaningful to others. These messages are mutually interdependent, and analysed together provide new insights into history.
It is by way of this concept that Olof Heilo presents the decline of the Eastern Roman Empire as a key to understanding the rise of Islam; two historical processes often perceived as distinct from one another. Eastern Rome and the Rise of Islam highlights significant convergences between Early Islam and the Late Ancient world. It suggests that Islam’s rise is a feature of a common process during which tensions between imperial ambitions and apocalyptic beliefs in Europe and the Middle East cut straight across today’s theological and political definitions. The conquests of Islam, the emergence of the caliphate, and the transformation of the Roman and Christian world are approached from both prophetic anticipations in the Ancient and Late Ancient world, and from the Medieval and Modern receptions of history. In the shadow of their narratives it becomes possible to trace the outline of a shared history of Christianity and Islam. The “Dark Ages” thus emerge not merely as a tale of sound and fury, but as an era of openness, diversity and unexpected possibilities.
Approaching the rise of Islam as a historical phenomenon, this book opens new perspectives in the study of early religion and philosophy, as well as providing a valuable resource for students and scholars of Islamic Studies.
In February, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “Constantine and the Cities: Imperial Authority and Civic Politics” by Noel Lenski. The publisher’s description follows:
Over the course of the fourth century, Christianity rose from a religion actively persecuted by the authority of the Roman empire to become the religion of state—a feat largely credited to Constantine the Great. Constantine succeeded in propelling this minority religion to imperial status using the traditional tools of governance, yet his proclamation of his new religious orientation was by no means unambiguous. His coins and inscriptions, public monuments, and pronouncements sent unmistakable signals to his non-Christian subjects that he was willing not only to accept their beliefs about the nature of the divine but also to incorporate traditional forms of religious expression into his own self-presentation. In Constantine and the Cities, Noel Lenski attempts to reconcile these apparent contradictions by examining the dialogic nature of Constantine’s power and how his rule was built in the space between his ambitions for the empire and his subjects’ efforts to further their own understandings of religious truth.
Focusing on cities and the texts and images produced by their citizens for and about the emperor, Constantine and the Cities uncovers the interplay of signals between ruler and subject, mapping out the terrain within which Constantine nudged his subjects in the direction of conversion. Reading inscriptions, coins, legal texts, letters, orations, and histories, Lenski demonstrates how Constantine and his subjects used the instruments of government in a struggle for authority over the religion of the empire.
In February, the Cambridge University Press will release “The Unfree Exercise of Religion: A World Survey of Discrimination Against Religious Minorities,” by Jonathan Fox (Bar Ilan University). The publisher’s description follows:
Religious discrimination is the norm in many countries around the world, and the rate is rising. Nearly every country which discriminates does so unequally, singling out some religious minorities for more discrimination than others. Religious tradition does not explain this complex issue. For example, Muslim majority states include both the most discriminatory and tolerant states in the world, as is also the case with Christian majority states. Religious ideologies, nationalism, regime, culture, security issues, and political issues are also all part of the answer. In The Unfree Exercise of Religion Jonathan Fox examines how we understand concepts like religious discrimination and religious freedom, and why countries discriminate. He makes a study of religious discrimination against 597 religious minorities in 177 countries between 1990 and 2008. While 29 types of discrimination are discussed in this book, the most common include restrictions in places of worship, proselytizing, and religious education.
- Examines how we think about concepts like religious discrimination and religious freedom, which are often used but rarely examined and defined, helping readers think more systematically about these topics
- Discusses evidence that religious discrimination is the norm rather than the exception and is on the rise, even in democracies
- Seeks to help undermine incorrect stereotypes and assumptions on the topic of religious discrimination
In March, the University of Illinois Press will release “The Pew and the Picket Line: Christianity and the American Working Class,” edited by Christopher D. Cantwell (University of Missouri-Kansas City), Heath W. Carter (Valparaiso University), Janine Giordano Drake (University of Great Falls). The publisher’s description follows:
The Pew and the Picket Line collects works from a new generation of scholars working at the nexus where religious history and working-class history converge. Focusing on Christianity and its unique purchase in America, the contributors use in-depth local histories to illustrate how Americans male and female, rural and urban, and from a range of ethnic backgrounds dwelt in a space between the church and the shop floor. Their vivid essays show Pentecostal miners preaching prosperity while seeking miracles in the depths of the earth, while aboveground black sharecroppers and white Protestants established credit unions to pursue a joint vision of cooperative capitalism.
Innovative and essential, The Pew and the Picket Line reframes venerable debates as it maps the dynamic contours of a landscape sculpted by the powerful forces of Christianity and capitalism.
In March, the Oxford University Press will release “Pastors and Public Life: The Changing Face of American Protestant Clergy,” by Corwin E. Smidt (Calvin College). The publisher’s description follows:
America’s clergy are not just religious leaders. Their influence extends far beyond church doors. Houses of worship stand at the center of American civic life-one of the few spheres in which relatively diverse individuals gather together regularly. And the moral authority granted to pastors means that they are uniquely positioned to play a role in public debates.
Based on data gathered through national surveys of clergy across four mainline Protestant (the Disciples of Christ; the Presbyterian Church, USA; the Reformed Church in America; and the United Methodist Church) and three evangelical Protestant denominations (the Assemblies of God; the Christian Reformed Church; and, the Southern Baptist Convention), Pastors and Public Life examines the changing sociological, theological, and political characteristics of American Protestant clergy over the past twenty-plus years. Smidt focuses on the relationship between clergy and politics-clergy positions on issues of American public policy, norms on what is appropriate for clergy to do politically, as well as the clergy’s political cue-giving, their pronouncements on public policy, and political activism-and the impact these changes have on congregations and on American society as a whole.
Pastors and Public Life is the first book to systematically examine such changes and continuity over time. It will be invaluable to scholars, students, pastors, and churchgoers.