re­views

The Church of England - - Reviews -

Blooms­bury have pub­lished what will be the last book by the distin­guished New Tes­ta­ment scholar, Geza Ver­mes. The True Herod ar­gues that the pre­sen­ta­tion of Herod the Great as a vil­lain is off the mark. Ver­mes pre­sents the king as a com­plex fig­ure, ca­pa­ble of great cru­elty but also of diplo­matic bril­liance. He de­scribes his rise to power, the con­vo­lu­tions of his per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal life, his mur­ders, his mon­u­men­tal build­ings and his death. Herod comes over as a ‘tragic hero’ in this truly fas­ci­nat­ing book.

St Jos­aphat who gave up his wealth and king­dom to be­come a Chris­tian monk was a pop­u­lar fig­ure in the Mid­dle Ages. Don­ald Lopez and Peggy McCracken tell how this fig­ure was ac­tu­ally based on the Buddha. Their book In Search of a Chris­tian Buddha shows how the Buddha’s story spread and evolved from In­dia to Europe and ended up as the story of a Chris­tian saint cited by Shake­speare in The Mer­chant of Venice. As the two au­thors ar­gue, their story shows that there are sur­pris­ing con­ver­gences and di­ver­gences be­tween Chris­tian­ity and Bud­dhism.

DLT continues to pub­lish books that should ap­peal to those re­spon­si­ble for church books stalls. Both Lucy Mills in For­get­ful Heart and Judy Hirst in A Kind of Sleep­walk­ing have writ­ten short, clear, prac­ti­cal books that will help many read­ers in their spir­i­tual lives. Lucy Mills writes for those who fre­quently find them­selves for­get­ting God and Judy Hirst de­scribes those mo­ments which wake us up and make us re­alise there is more to life than we have re­alised, what she calls ‘mo­ments of truth’.

Christo­pher Swift has pro­duced a sec­ond edi­tion of his warmly wel­comed Hospi­tal Chap­laincy in the 21st Century (Ash­gate). He looks at the chang­ing role of hospi­tal chap­lains and the de­bates that sur­round their work. Case stud­ies are ex­am­ined and the im­pact of the New Athe­ists is con­sid­ered. Swift thinks that chap­lains need to do more to com­mu­ni­cate the value of their work. With the NHS fac­ing more and more calls on its re­sources from an age­ing pop­u­la­tion, chap­lains do need to fol­low Swift’s ad­vice. This book should help them gain new con­fi­dence in the value of their im­por­tant min­istry.

Hospi­tal chap­lains will also find plenty to in­ter­est them in The Story of Pain by Joanna Bourke. In a book that de­serves a wide read­er­ship she charts chang­ing at­ti­tudes to pain from a time when people saw it as re­demp­tive down to the present. How we in­ter­pret pain shapes the way we re­spond to people in pain. Bourke is Pro­fes­sor of His­tory at Birk­beck Col­lege, Lon­don. She has pre­vi­ously writ­ten on rape, fear, killing and chang­ing ideas of what it means to be hu­man.

Street pas­tors are a new fea­ture on the streets of many ma­jor towns. They started to make their ap­pear­ance in 2003. Now there are 11,000 vol­un­teers in 280 towns and eight coun­tries pro­vid­ing prac­ti­cal help (bot­tled wa­ter for club­bers, flip flops for bare­foot rev­ellers) coun­selling and spir­i­tual care. Les Isaac and Ros­alind Davies write about them and go be­hind the scenes to tell their story in Faith on the Streets (Hod­der). Short, mean­ing­ful en­coun­ters have changed lives.

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