Here are a some excellent theology* books that will be released this month:
* broadly interpreted, including ethics, church history, biblical studies, and other areas that intersect with theology
See a book here that you’d like to review for us?
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Perpetua was an early Christian martyr who died in Roman Carthage in 203 CE, along with several fellow martyrs, including one other woman, Felicitas. She has attracted great interest for two main reasons: she was one of the earliest martyrs, especially female martyrs, about whom we have any knowledge, and she left a narrative written in prison just before she went to her death in the amphitheater. Her narrative is embedded in a tripartite telling of the arrest and deaths of these martyrs, the Passio Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis. The other two parts of her tale were written by Saturus, a fellow martyr and probably her teacher, and a nameless editor or confessor, who introduces her circumstances and group and then tells of her death after she stops writing. Her story is steeped in mystery, and every aspect of her life and death has generated much controversy. Some do not believe that she herself could have written the narrative: the circumstances of her imprisonment and the limitations of her ability to write such a rhetorically complex tale are inconceivable. Some believe that her editor was none other then Tertullian, the famous 2nd-3rd century church father and Perpetua’s fellow north African. Some, including Augustine, wonder why the feast day was named only for Perpetua and Felicitas and not for her fellow male martyrs. Some believe that these martyr tales were largely fabricated or constructed in order to generate publicity for the early Christians. This book will investigate and try to make sense of all aspects of Perpetua’s life, death, and circumstances: her family and life in Carthage, Christians and Romans in Carthage and in the Roman empire in this period, the comparisons of martyrs to athletes, the influence of these martyr tales upon the Acts of the Apostles and the Greek novel, the reactions of later church fathers like Augustine to her story and her popularity, and the gendering of this text.
The Cappadocian Fathers had great influence on the church of the fourth century, having brought their passion for Christ and theological expertise to life in their ministry. Their work was not devoid of influence, including that of their immediate family members. Within their writings we uncover the lives of seven women, the Cappadocian Mothers, who may have had more influence on the theology of the church than previously believed. As the Cappadocians wrestle with the Christianization of the concept of deification, we find the women in their lives becoming models for their theological understanding. The lives of the women become points of intersection in the kenosis-theosis parabola. Not only are the Cappadocian Mothers uncovered in the texts, but they become models of an optimistic theology of restoration for all of humanity without constraint of gender.
“Carla Sunberg has crafted a significant piece of historical retrieval. She has mined the writings of fourth-century Cappadocian Fathers to learn of the significant witness and influence of the women who helped shape their understanding of how one becomes a participant in the divine nature. Her meticulous research demonstrates that without these mothers in faith, the fathers would lack living witnesses for their formulation of early Christian understandings of Christology, mystical theology, and Trinitarian construction. Besides, these remarkable women challenged regnant notions of the inferiority of women. Sunberg has bridged a major gap in scholarship, and the whole church will profit.”
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