(El Club, at present unclassified) directed by Pablo Larraín, starring Alfredo Castor, Roberto Farías and Antonia Zegers, 98 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles

Throughout the Church we are still only beginning to cope with the effects of revelations about crimes committed by clergy, Religious and others in the Church, particularly crimes of abuse against children and young people. In places where good child protection policies have been introduced one danger is complacency and the feeling that the problem is a thing of the past; but in many parts of the world even this stage has not been reached and denial and cover-up is still common. Part of how we can face up to the enormity of what happened is to be shocked – and this new film by the young Chilean director Pablo Larraín (whose earlier work includes NO and Post Mortem) is a good way to be shocked.

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March/April 2016

Author: Martin McGee
ISBN: 978 1 84730 599 2
Date: 2015
Price: £9.45
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Publisher: Veritas

For anyone who saw and was moved by Of Gods and Men, the 2010 award winning film about the Trappist monks of Tibhirine, this book offers an opportunity to explore further their ideas and legacy. Seven of the monks were kidnapped and killed in Algeria in 1996 and the film explored their lives with their Muslim neighbours and their decision not to abandon them despite the growing risk. Two of the monks survived, Br Amedee and Br Jean Pierre, and Martin McGee interviewed them both. In the first part of the book he uses this material, together with surviving documentation, and some background ideas about interfaith dialogue to tell the stories of the monks. This story of solidarity offers inspiration for Christians to connect in everyday life with our Muslim neighbours.

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March/April 2016

Editors: Nancy deClaissé-Walford; Rolf A. Jacobson; Beth laNeel Tanner.
ISBN: 978 0 8028 2493 6
Date: 2014
Price: £40.99
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Publisher: Eerdmans [UK Distributor: Alban Books]

Like other volumes in the NICOT series, this is an evangelical commentary which balances respect for critical methods with veneration for the biblical text as the inspired Word of God. It is the longest Psalms commentary in English that I know of (running to 1051 pages as against 971 for Terrien’s 2008 commentary).

The Introduction covers, though not exhaustively (in only 50 pp.), the sort of issues that one would expect. After sections on the title, text and authorship of the Psalms it offers a judicious discussion of the value and limitations of form criticism. Then it looks at the canonical shape of the Psalter (it consist of ‘five books that narrate the history of ancient Israel’).

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March/April 2016

Author: Mary Finnigan
ISBN: 978-0-9863770-2-0
Date: 2016
Price: £14.95
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Publisher: Jorvik Press

After David Bowie died at the beginning of this year, rather unexpectedly to most people, some of what was written in tributes referred to his ‘spirituality’, alongside his shifting identities and ambiguities, which made him for many people a perfect ‘postmodern’ icon. At times he claimed to be an atheist, but nevertheless on other occasions showed signs of religious faith. At a big rock concert to commemorate the Queen star Freddie Mercury Bowie simply knelt down on the stage in front of the vast audience and said the Lord’s Prayer for Mercury: it is a rather moving scene (accessible on Youtube). After his death there was a very positive reaction from Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, which claimed that there were signs of a deep spirituality in much of his work. He quoted these words of Bowie’s: ‘Lord, I kneel and offer you my world on a wing / And I am trying hard to fit among your scheme of things.’(for full details see www.thetablet.co.uk).

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March/April 2016

Author: Katherine Low
ISBN: 978 0 56723 921 1
Date: 2013
Price: £55.00
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Publisher: Bloomsbury T & T Clark

There are several interpretative ambiguities in the biblical account of Job’s marriage. Is it significant that his wife is not named, and that when at the end (42.13) he has new children their mother (the original one or a new wife?) is not even mentioned? Does Job’s wife bid him bless God and die or curse God and die (2.9)? The verb ba–rak bears both meanings. Is death here envisaged as caused by the blessing/cursing? Is her assertive language a call to Job, and to the reader, to question settled orthodoxies? What relationship between the couple is suggested by his calling her ‘one of the stupid women’ (2.10)? Such ambiguities have opened the door, over the centuries, to a variety of readings of the text and of representations of it in art. Professor Low of Mary Baldwin College in the USA here explores a selection of them within the Christian tradition, showing how the different ways of taking the text were influenced by cultural ideas, especially about gender. In medieval Christianity, which tended to read the Job story in terms of the Adam and Eve narrative, with the ‘dung heap’ being a reversal of Eden and with the serpent standing for Satan, Job’s wife was usually thought of as aligned with Satan (e.g. ‘his wife, the Devil’s helper’: Augustine). She stood for the supposed tendency of women to speak when they should not, and that in inappropriate language. Later, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – a period when there was much discussion in domestic conduct manuals about the nature of Christian marriage and the role of women – Satan made less of an appearance, and the Job story came to stand for the human struggle against evil. Job’s wife was now a type of the bad wife. She was often represented as a dangerous, ugly, old – and often foreign! – woman. William Blake (to whom Low devotes a long final chapter) subscribed to a highly idiosyncratic version of Christianity of his own devising which accorded to women a relatively positive, even liberated, role. It is not surprising, therefore, that for Blake Job’s wife was thoroughly benign. In his engravings for the Book of Job, Blake placed his wife, unlike the ‘friends’, by Job’s side; she complemented him. She was his companion in a Christologically conceived journey from the rigid formalism of the Old Testament, though a struggle with the OT God and through creative, imaginative engagement with the world as revealed by Christ, towards a utopia of cosmic harmony. Professor Low concludes that Biblical interpreters today can learn from the Reception History of this text to realize the extent to which their own cultural ideas are likely to shape their exegesis. The point is well made. Professor Low’s book would have benefitted from more rigorous editing. There are grammatical slips and a good number of examples of contorted English. The numbering of the numerous illustrations (all in black and white, and of indifferent quality of reproduction) is odd: there is no figure 1 or 4. Despite these blemishes, this book makes for stimulating reading and points up the importance of Reception History.

March/April 2016

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