Dr Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury, triggered a storm of protest when he seemed to recommend some shari'a law for England. He triggered as well an immensely fruitful discussion among lawyers, theologians and sociologists. Nineteen specialists look back on developments since the Archbishop spoke, and forwards along the trajectories opened by his historic lecture. They clarify the relevant evolution of English law and the content and implications of islam, shari'a and jihad. They discuss the European Convention on Human Rights, family law, women's rights, freedom of speech and political Islam. They ask how to ensure that the rights of all citizens are honoured and their responsibilities are met.
The book is a model of the form of discussion that it recommends: honest and precise, courteous and attentive, practical and forward-looking. We hear - from four continents - Muslim, Christian and secular voices. Some offer dispassionate analysis, others speak openly from their own personal and professional experience.Church Times review
Founded as the main church of the Knights Templar in England, at their New Temple in London, the Temple Church is historically and architecturally one of the most important medieval buildings in England. Its round nave, modelled on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, is extraordinarily ambitious, combining lavish Romanesque sculpture with some of the earliest Gothic architectural features in any English building of its period. It holds one of the most famous series of medieval effigies in the country. The luminous thirteenth-century choir, intended for the burial of Henry III, is of exceptional beauty. Major developments in the post-medieval period include the reordering of the church in the 1680s by Sir Christopher Wren, and a substantial restoration programme in the early 1840s. Despite its extraordinary importance, however, it has until now attracted little scholarly or critical attention, a gap which we have tried to remedy by this volume. We consider the New Temple as a whole in the middle ages, and all aspects of the church itself from its foundation in the twelfth century to its war-time damage in the twentieth. Richly illustrated with numerous black and white and colour plates, the book makes full use of the exceptional range and quality of the antiquarian material available for study, including drawings, photographs, and plaster casts. Contributors: Virginia Jansen, Philip Lankester, Helen Nicholson, David Park, Rosemary Sweet, William Whyte, Christopher Wilson and myself.
I myself wrote two papers for the volume: on the 17th century, '"An Enrichment of Cherubims: Christopher Wren's Refurbishment of the Temple Church'; and on the Church's most recent history, '"The Latter Glory of this House": Some Details of Damage and Repair, 1840-1941'
This book gives a grand tour through 2000 years history, art and tradition with surprises and discoveries all the way.
I trace the Gnostics' myths about Mary Magdalene back to the Gnostics' deep and poignant - but ultimately erroneous - reading of John's gospel. The Gnostics did see correctly that John puts a deliberate weight on the roles of the women in his story; and they saw too that John's gospel is far more than just a story - it was designed to take the listener through the new birth of which Jesus himself speaks in the gospel. (For this long-lost understanding of John, you might like to look at the last chapters of my book, The Four Witnesses.)
And Mary Magdalene's story carries on, evolving all through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and through to the present day. It is a fascinating journey, illuminated in the book with illustrations of some of the most famous paintings and sculptures of the Magdalene. The nearer we reach the present day, the more clearly we see that the story of Mary Magdalene in our own day - and through all the past centuries - has really been the story of the people who are telling it: of their ideals, hopes, and understanding of what it is to be human.RESPONSES:
P. D. James, novelist: I found this book more enthralling than any secular mystery and for the first time felt that I understood something of the character of this frequently misunderstood saint. Beautifully written and illustrated, Beloved Disciple will be as fascinating to lay people as it will be welcomed by theologians and historians. I congratulate the Master of the Temple on a fine and timely achievement.
Salley Vickers, author of Miss Garnet's Angel: A beautifully written and scholarly account of one of history's most fascinating women
Susan Haskins, author of Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor: This is an incisive, beguilingly written study of Mary Magdalene, giving a fascinating insight into her importance in the New Testament and in the Gnostic writings, and her image down to the present day.
Publishers Weekly, 26 May 2008 (starred review): A brilliant and beautifully written book.
Marvin Meyer, Professor of Religion, Chapman University, author of The Gospels of Mary: Robin Griffith-Jones takes us on a wonderful and meandering journey through the texts and traditions on Mary, and in so doing he opens up a world of questions and possibilities about who Mary might have been and how she has been understood - and misunderstood - for the past two millennia.
Christopher Rowland, Dean Ireland Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford: Robin Griffith-Jones brings his sensitive and distinctive approach to the gospels to bear on the discussion of Mary Magdalene. The result is a very different, and existentially more compelling, account of the importance of Mary Magdalene as a figure who exemplifies discipleship and embodies the impact of the narrative of which she is a part. In a climate where so much attention is given to the history behind the gospel accounts, Griffith-Jones invites readers to discover new perspectives and insight on the Jesus story from the distinctive viewpoint which the biblical and gnostic narratives give to Mary Magdalene.
The Temple Church in London, the historic spiritual home of the Knights Templar, and the final resting place of crusading knights, features large in Dan Brown's mega selling Da Vinci Code and also in the film with Tom Hanks. I show how much of Dan Brown's version of Christianity is true, how much is plausible and how much is fanciful. Covering all the main elements of the book, the Priory of Sion, Opus Dei, the Knights Templar, Leonardo's "Last Supper", Jesus, Mary Magdalene and more, I hope to set the record straight!
Dan Brown's characters raise question after question about the Churches and their historic patriarchal misogyny. A good many responses to the novel have deflected attention from these pressing and real concerns onto trivia about which most readers, I suspect, hardly care at all. I base my book on the questions I was asked over two years in my weekly talks about the novel here at the Temple Church. I greatly enjoyed these opportunities to hear what mattered to people about the novel.RESPONSE:
The Revd Dr Andrew Gregory, Chaplain, University College, Oxford, writing in The Church of England Newspaper: A wonderful and understated example of the sort of response that I could imagine Dan Brown fans actually reading and enjoying. Cleverly beginning with the most recent events to which the novel refers, and then working backwards to its claims about Jesus and the early Church, this is a wonderful book. Brimming with insight and erudition, it is by far the best explicitly Christian response to The Da Vinci Code that I have seen.
Paul as he has never been seen before: I read Paul's letters as the letters of a visionary who needs his converts as much as they need him. Setting Paul in the context of Jewish mystical practice and life, I address many of the questions surrounding the "real" Paul, getting inside the head of the enigmatic Paul and offering a dramatic interpretation of his motives and spiritual evolution.
Paul's voice reaches us across a gulf of 2,000 years and several thousand miles. It comes from a world quite different from our own. Paul was a visionary. He saw Christ seated on the throne of God, and was transformed by the sight. Paul was transformed by his own visions of heaven - and of Jesus enthroned there. Paul set out to transform his converts in their turn. When he was present, he re-presented Jesus in his own person. When he was absent, he wrote letters to draw his listeners here on earth towards the life he himself had shared in heaven. Paul did not write just to persuade his addressees - but to transform them.
There may be readers of The Gospel according to Paul who want to discover for themselves what Paul summoned his audience to see. Readers can find here again a new sort of book - one that enables them to undergo for themselves, if they so wish, something of the transformation onto which Paul invited his addressees all those years ago.
And Paul himself? Paul gets a bad press. A good many of us aren't sure we like him. Was he a male chauvinist, sexually repressed and frightened of women? Was he the founder of a false "Christianity", who betrayed the freedom that Jesus had taught and imposed instead the rules that has enslaved Christian life ever since? Was he dangerously muddled, forever guilty about the Judaism he had left behind?
Paul was none of these. He was sure he has seen the mysteries of heaven and tries to bring them down to earth. He was trained in the hidden ways of the visionaries and made their effect as public as he can.
He is the father to his converts. He is devoted to them; and in the main years of his mission he has nothing except those converts to show for his life and no-one except them to praise and value him. Is he, then, possessive? Yes. Does he ever bully and manipulate his "children"? Yes. Paul tries to steer and control his churches as a father tries to control his adolescent children - and with about as much (or as little) success. Paul insists that his converts need him. It is as true to say that he needs them.
Paul lived a tumultuous life. He faced questions on every side: What authority did he have and what power? What must converts do (and not do) to be members of his churches? How was he to keep each church united and the churches at unity, one with another? In The Gospel according to Paul readers will find, in Paul himself, a man as gripping as any leader in the world today.RESPONSES:
Prof Huston Smith, author of The World's Religions: This is the most helpful book on Paul I have ever read. I am deeply indebted to its author.
Prof Frances Flannery, James Madison University: One of the sharpest and most provocative readings of Paul that I have ever encountered. Robin manages to synthesize and build upon the most cutting edge studies in Pauline scholarship, which would only be apparent to a specialist in the field. His own argument is stunning and original and deeply informed about the Jewish mystical milieu of the apostle.
David G Burke, Dean Emeritus, NIDA Institute for Biblical Scholarship/American Bible Society: Griffith-Jones's brilliant ability to set Paul and his letters within context is the key that will enable readers to gain great rewards.
Library Journal, 1 April 2004: Griffith-Jones examines Paul's contribution to the development of early Christian Christological thought by placing Paul in his ancient historical, religious, and intellectual milieu. Griffith-Jones considers Paul's theological thought as an integral part of the primitive Church's deepening understanding of the meaning of Jesus's death and resurrection, with its concomitant influence on the early church's proclamation of the Gospel. The meditative, devotional writing style is easy to read and obviously aimed at a wide general audience. Recommended for popular religion collections.SCHOLARLY FOUNDATIONS:
Romans: '"Keep up your Transformation in the Renewal of the Mind:" Romans as a Therapeutic Letter', in C. Schantz and R. Werline (eds), Experientia II, (Atlanta: SBL, 2012), 137-60
2 Cor: 'Turning to the Lord: Vision, Transformation and Paul's Agenda in 2 Cor. 1-8', in R. Bieringer, M. Ibita, D. Kurek-Chomycz and T. Vollmer (eds), Theologizing in the Corinthian Conflict: Studies in the Exegesis and Theology of 2 Corinthians (Leuven: Peeters, 2013), 255-79
Bringing the stories of Jesus to life for the contemporary reader, I revive the original power and intent of each of the four gospels. I ask how and why each gospel was written, considering the substance and style of the testimony and the crises confronting the early churches which the gospels were written to serve.
All of them 'fall into place' when we do justice to the turbulent times and to the beliefs that surrounded the evangelists and their first audiences. The story of the Roman Empire, of the Jewish communities and of the emerging but beleaguered churches in the first century CE is as exciting and moving as any story you could hope to read.
We need, as we read the gospels, to engage out imagination. John's listeners must go through 'the new birth from above' of which John's Jesus speaks in order to understand the Jesus who has made it possible. Who was Lazarus, raised from the dead in the gospel? Lazarus is the gospel's listener or reader, brought by the text itself from death to new life - a life realised when in the story of Easter Day the reader encounters the risen Jesus, as a new Eve encountering a new Adam in a new Eden, as the sun rises on the first day of the new creation.
You will find in this book readings of Mark's gospel and of John's that you will, I think, never have encountered before; and I throw new light on the agenda and on many details of Matthew and Luke. The evangelists were of course concerned with the facts to be relayed and with their significance. And more: the evangelists saw that their listeners would need dramatically new capacities for understanding in order to grasp that significance.RESPONSES:
The Rt Revd Tom Wright: I took your splendid book with me to the USA ten days ago... It's a remarkable achievement, if I may say so; quite apart from what you do with the gospels themselves... you manage to create a thoroughly credible historical setting for the whole of early Christianity - something few NT introductions achieve. The place of Paul in relation to it all, and your use of Revelation, was very, very satisfying and exciting.
The Revd Prof. Peter J. Gomes, Preacher to Harvard University: The great mystery of the four gospels and the one Jesus is given a clarifying explanation and demonstration in this novel approach. The Four Witnesses may well recapture for a new millennium the excitement about Jesus which characterized the first millennium of Christian faith.
The Revd Daniel Berrigan, S.J.: A judicious, skilled and closely integrated analysis of the Christian gospels…. The scholarship is impeccable, the style light of heart and hand.
Krister Stendahl, former Bishop of Stockholm and Andrew W. Mellon Professor, emeritus, at Harvard Divinity School: We have four striking portraits of Jesus in the Christian Bible and Robin Griffith-Jones makes us bold enough to really look at one at a time and let it sink in... That way of reading the Gospels is both spiritually and intellectually refreshing.SCHOLARLY FOUNDATIONS:
Mark: 'Going Back to Galilee to see the Son of Man: Mark's Gospel as an Upside-Down Apocalypse', in E. Struthers Malbon (ed.), Between Author and Audience: Markan Narration, Characterization, and Interpretation (Sheffield: Phoenix Press, 2008), 82-102
John: 'Transformation by a Text: The Gospel of John', in F. Flannery (ed.), Experientia I: Studies in Religious Experience in the Ancient World, (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008), 105-24
'From John's Gospel to Dan Brown: The Magdalene Code', in M. Lieb, E. Mason and J. Roberts (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 369-82
'Apocalyptic Mystagogy: Rebirth-from-above in the Reception of John's Gospel', in C. C. Rowland and C. H. Williams (eds), John's Gospel and Intimations of Apocalyptic (London: T & T Clark, 2013)