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.