Flavius Josephus is a first century historian who is known to Christian scholars as the only independent historical confirmation of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Frederic Raphael, A Jew among Romans: The Life and Legacy of Flavius Josephus, Call Number 933.0072 Rap 2013, recounts the life and times of the Jewish scholar, known as Josephus, who survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and wrote an eye-witness account of the last Judaean war from the Roman point of view. The history was written in Greek. Josephus was a member of the High Priest clan at a time when Pharisees and Sadducees argued over the interpretation of the Torah, while radical “Zealot” groups practiced an ancient form of community organization and terrorism. More important, theology, politics and military actions were completely merged into a single-minded activity. First century Judaeans were quite capable of killing off each other with, or without, Roman intervention. Josephus acted as a reluctant Judaean general defending Judaean cities against the Roman general Vespasian and lost horribly. Josephus tricked his way out of a Judaean suicide pact with other military officers and survived the resulting Roman slaughter by convincing Vespasian that the Jewish God Yahweh had destined Vespasian to become Emperor of Rome. (Josephus should know because he was a High Priest as well as a general.) Raphael’s commentary throws some historical and philosophical perspective on Christian-Jewish relations during the twentieth century as well as the continuing chaos in the twenty-first century Middle East. It also warns us that the Christian Church was not born in a peaceful political democracy.
David Potter, Constantine the Emperor, call number 937.08 Pot 2012, is a new assessment of the role of Constantine as the first Christian Emperor. Potter sees Constantine’s reign as a continuation of Diocletian’s attempt to bring order and personal morality to Roman subjects. In his dense narrative of 3rd and 4th century Roman politics, Potter sees persecutions of the new Christian religion as sporadic episodes in the relatively neutral stance of the Romans toward the many conflicting religions of the Middle East. The Romans saw their subjects as a source of revenue and bounty and, generally, were more concerned with taxes than ideological beliefs. Diocletian’s vicious, but short-lived, persecution of Christians as a political mistake, rather than a moral failing. Constantine’s drafting of the Nicene Creed was “the sort of thing that an experienced imperial administrator would have decided upon” to prevent the church of his newly proclaimed personal god from tearing itself apart. In other words, Constantine’s edict proclaiming the elements of Christian faith was meant as an administrative means of resolving conflict rather than a source of theological purity. This is important for faith driven modern Christians to remember. It is unfortunate that the message requires such a detailed study of Roman history to reconstruct.
Lance L. Davis and Albert H. Keller, At the Close of Day, call number 261 Dav 2004, is a guide book written by a physician and a minister on the management of terminal illness. The authors use case studies to instruct family members and counselors on how to manage the challenges of terminal illness in order to provide an environment for a peaceful end to life. It covers practical, as well as spiritual issues, and is accessible to family care givers as well as religious counselors.
Trans-Kin, ed. by Eleanor Hubbard and Cameron T. Whitley, call number 306.872 Tra 20012, is a collection of stories from family members and friends of transgender persons. It is a “useful tool that encourages understanding and acceptance of the transgender community and their loved ones.” This book is another resource for sexual diversity acceptance.
A number of new books are in the collection, especially regarding Navajo and Native American spirituality.
We have also received some generous donations of works in theology and church history from retired clergy.