Christianity and Judaism: How One Faith Became Two

The latest issue of Christian History Magazine has released with the topic, “Christianity and Judaism: How One Faith Became Two”. The entire issue explores division and reconciliation in arguably the most profound and heartbreaking expression in the history of man, religion and what is His story – that of the God of the Bible and the Father of both Christians and Jews. Here are some of the intriguing discussions from the issue:

Faith divided: How one faith became two—and how their conflict began by Eliza Rosenberg, postdoctoral teaching fellow in world religions at Utah State University

People of Torah: Rabbinic Judaism 101 by The Editors

Gentile tales: How a limited protection of Jews evolved into persecution by Miri Rubin, professor of medieval and early modern history at Queen Mary University in London

Looking for demons: “Golden mouthed” saint preached against Jews by Matt Forster, director of admissions and communications at Houston Graduate School of Theology and frequent contributor to Christian History

Larger than life: Christian thinkers Adopted Jewish symbols—but mistrusted their sources by Edwin Woodruff Tait is a Christian History contributing editor

Kabbalah: A surprising point of meeting by Harvey J. Hames, professor of history, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

“Never shall I forget”: From 1933 to 1945, Germans—some of them Christians—murdered six million Jews by Chris Gehrz is professor of history at Bethel University and coauthor of The Pietist Option.

Jews, lies, and Nazis: Did Luther pave the way for Hitler? by Eric W. Gritsch (1931–2012), Maryland Synod professor of church history at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

A land called holy: The founding of the State of Israel opened new questions for Jewish-Christian relations by Robert O. Smith is director of Briarwood Leadership Center, Argyle, TX

Nozrim and Meshichyim: Messianic Judaism combines Jewish and Christian influences, but not without controversy by Yaakov Ariel is professor in the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Experiencing Messianic Judaism by Paul Phelps has attended Messianic congregations both in America and in Israel. He is the father of Michael Phelps, network administrator for our sister company, Vision Video.

“Our Jewish life”: Jewish thinkers, writers, leaders, and artists with lasting impacts by Jennifer A. Boardman is a freelance writer and editor. She holds a Master of Theological Studies from Bethel Seminary with a concentration in Christian history.

Sorrow and blessing: Two theologians seek to illuminate the difficult history in this issue by Ellen T. Charry is professor emerita of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary and is working on a project about Jewish-Christian relations tentatively titled “Who Is the Israel of God?” Holly Taylor Coolman is assistant professor of theology at Providence College. Her current research focuses on Christian theologies of the Jewish people.

You can read the issue here.

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In the Garden

Throughout the years I’ve reviewed many books about plants; herbalism, growing them, trees, culinary herbs, and many more perspectives. However, recently I was approached about the opportunity to review a book about plants written from a unique perspective, the Bible. “In the Garden: An Illustrated Guide to the Plants of the Bible” discusses trees and shrubs, edible plants, medicinal and aromatic plants, and flowers from the Old Testaments and New Testaments.

Why the Bible? As it’s pointed out in the introduction, “The Bible is full of metaphors that come from plant life: sowing, pruning, tending, reaping, and storing; seeds, stalks, fruit, chaff, and leaves.” That, “A study of the plants in the Bible also gives us an appreciation for the scope of the narrative of God’s people in Scripture,” and that, “a careful study of the meaning of words in the Bible brings our imaginations into worship of our King.”

So, you don’t practice a Judeo-Christian religion. Why bother with this book? Because it gives us, particularly those of us who love nature but aren’t knowledgeable in Scripture a new perspective to many plants. Each plant outlined in the book has a corresponding piece of Scripture and history of the plant. At the end, there’s even some ideas for growing your own Biblically inspired garden!

“In the Garden” is 128 pages of beautiful full-color illustrations by Becky Speer in a slim hardcover format. This would make a lovely coffee table book and an excellent gift for anyone who is intrigued by plants.

You can learn more here.

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Are You Willing to Take Up the Shepherd’s Staff — and Help Spread Love & Peace

By James Twyman

Set aside your computer for a moment and see if you can guess who wrote these words: “I made a mistake. Without doubt, an oppressed multitude had to be liberated, but our method only provoked further oppression and atrocious massacres. What was really needed…were ten Francis of Assisi’s.”

I love asking this question and I’m not surprised when people give credit to revolutionary characters like Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When I tell them they’re wrong their answers become even more interesting – Napoleon, George Washington, etc. “How about John Lennon?” someone recently asked.

“You’re close,” I said, “but only because their names sound similar. The answer is Lenin, not Lennon – the architect of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Lenin.”

Lenin? Is it possible that the communist leader who referred to religion as “medieval mildew” and called the clergy “gendarmes (French policemen) in cassocks” had fallen in love with a twelfth century Italian mystic who gave everything he owned to the poor in order to live the Gospel of Jesus as perfectly as he could? Clearly St. Francis has inspired millions of people for more than eight hundred years, to the point that statues of the saint occupy gardens everywhere you look today, but how did an atheist like Lenin become so enthralled?

Maybe Lenin has something to teach all of us in this regard. The end of the quote is: “What was really needed in Russia were ten Francis of Assisi’s,” but we could just as easily substitute that in our own world today – and it would be just as true.

Does it sound like a ridiculous dream in the world of bullying, fake news and racist attacks? When you know a little about the history of Europe, especially at the time of St. Francis, you realize things weren’t that different – the pope was at odds with the Holy Roman Emperor, city states were constantly at war with other city states, and tension between the very rich and the very poor was at an all-time high.

Which leads to the question Vladimir Lenin seemed to be asking – Are we trying to solve the problems of the world with the same thinking that got us into trouble? If so, maybe ten radical people like St. Francis of Assisi are enough to turn things around.

Margaret Mead famously said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Was Mead’s thinking influenced by St. Francis when he wrote: “Pure, holy simplicity confounds all the wisdom of this world?”

When you examine the current direction of the world — especially politically — it’s easy to agree that the current wisdom isn’t so wise, so maybe thinking outside the box isn’t such a bad idea.

Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson has taken considerable heat for challenging the status quo. She encourages us to “love with conviction” and “wage peace,” the same ideas St. Francis would have expressed if he was alive today. But at least she is willing to stand for these ideas on a national stage, inching these concepts forward, planting seeds in the minds of people who may not have viewed the world from this perception.

So I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring, but not as a Presidential candidate. I want to take up the challenge issued by Lenin and become one of the ten St. Francis’s needed to turn the world around.

Here are a few things I’ll need to do if I’m to accomplish my goal: Be willing to give everything for love; think less about my own comfort and more about the wellbeing of others; and finally, challenge my own limiting beliefs and be willing to see everyone through the eyes of love. If I can do that, even in some limited way, maybe others will make a similar decision and step forward in their own way. All I need are nine more.

St. Francis’s example directly challenged the powers that ruled Europe eight hundred years ago, and yet his vision is celebrated today. He lived at the end of what we now call the Dark Ages, but he was also one of the inspirations that initiated the Renaissance, an era of great light and creativity.

Is it possible that hundreds of years from now people will look back at this time in a similar way, calling it another Dark Age? And if they do, will they also celebrate the few dedicated people who stepped forward just as St. Francis did? Are we on the cusp of a New Renaissance?

About James Twyman:
James Twyman, bestselling author of “Giovanni and the Camino of St. Francis”, will bring his stirring new musical on “St. Francis Brother Sun, Sister Moon” to Broadway on February 20-March 1, 2020. And with the beloved saint as his model-he will travel a continent penniless, on foot and with whatever food, housing and further transportation that God will provide to get him there, presenting the play in 10 cities along the way. Twyman is also the NY Times bestselling author of 15 other books including “The Moses Code” and “Emissary of Light”. He has also recorded more than 18 music albums including the Billboard chart bestseller “I AM Wishes Fulfilled” along with Dr. Wayne Dyer; as well as produced or directed seven feature films. For more information on Twyman, and the “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” Musical Tour stops and performances– and “Giovanni and the Camino of St. Francis”–visit: www.JimmyTwyman.com

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Women of the Reformation

The latest issue of Christian History Magazine is available now. I wanted to bring it to your attention due to its look at women who played a role in well, Christian history.

This issue, #131, titled: Women of the Reformation: Lesser-known stories, features women who are not as well known, including a printer, Margarethe Prüss; preachers, Katherine Schütz Zell and Marie Dentière; pamphlet writer, Argula von Grumbach; mystic, Ursula Jost and others, alongside Katie Luther, who pioneered the brand new role/profession of pastor’s wife and Anna Bullinger, whose husband Heinrich’s courtship letters formed the basis of the only lengthy excerpt from a male theologian in this issue.

Prominent queens of the sixteenth century are included in the issue, such as Marguerite de Navarre and Jeanne d’Albret of France and all the six wives of England’s Henry VIII – the three Catherines, two Annes, one Jane and his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth.

Articles in this issue are:

No simple story by Jennifer Powell McNutt – How women’s roles changed in the sixteenth century

“Honorable and holy” by Heinrich Bullinger – Bullinger’s book on Christian marriage was a best-seller

Like mother, like daughter? By S. Amanda Eurich – Marguerite de Navarre and Jeanne d’Albret shaped French religion for generations

“A very useful epistle”: Marie Dentière by Mary B. McKinley – In 2002 Dentière received belated recognition; her name was added to the Wall of the Reformers in Geneva.

Our first woman reformer by Peter Matheson – Argula von Grumbach proclaimed “no woman’s chit-chat, but the Word of God”

Not a soap opera by Calvin Lane – The women of the English Reformation were active participants in a theological drama

She would follow only Christ by Elsie McKee – From pamphlet writing to pastoral counsel, Katharina Schütz Zell fought for her right to speak

“Christ is the master”: Margaret Blaurer by Edwin Woodruff Tait – Blaurer was of use to the church as a single woman.

Dangerous pamphlets by Kirsi Stjerna – Margarethe Prüss helped advance the radical Reformation through her publishing

“God my Lord is even stronger” by Rebecca Giselbrecht – Exemplary women of the Reformation with confidence in their convictions

“The gates of Hell cannot prevail” by Argula von Grumbach – Von Grumbach’s letter to the University of Ingolstadt protesting the arrest and exile of Arsacius Seehofer for holding Lutheran views, excerpted here, became her most famous and best-selling piece of writing

Issue #131, contains 14 feature articles and shorter side-bar articles; a chronology timeline; an archive of rare artwork & photos; a ‘letter to the editor’ section and an extensive reading list compiled by the CH editorial staff. The magazine is available on-line and can be conveniently read on screen at: https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine.

Backwoods Witchcraft

“Backwoods Witchcraft: Conjure & Folk Magic from Appalachia” by Jake Richards paints a vivid picture of life in Appalachia. He pulls you into a land of rough living, enchanted untouched places, folklore, and magical practices. A place where the Bible is equal parts magical text and religious philosophy.

“Backwoods Witchcraft” is written in a conversational tone. Although Richards divided the book into sections, you’ll find quite a bit of overlap in subject matter. This can be forgiven because as you read you’ll find that Appalachian folk magic infuses everything in the practitioner’s life; from the foods you choose to eat to the clothes you opt to wear.

Personally, I loved reading about how the Bible is used for magical incantation. It made me look at the Bible with fresh eyes. “Backwoods Witchcraft” is also loaded with tons of little things you could incorporate into your everyday life. However, Richards wrote the book in the hopes that others would pick up the torch of Appalachian folk magic, a magic that is apparently dying out in practice in its traditional homeland.

“Backwoods Witchcraft” is a well-written, entertaining, and informative read.

You can learn more here.

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Familiars in Witchcraft

When I saw “Familiars in Witchcraft: Supernatural Guardians in the Magical Traditions of the World” by Maja D’Aoust I knew I wanted to read it. Who doesn’t love learning about those adorable animal familiars? In retrospect, it was a pretty myopic view. Fortunately, D’Aoust opened my eyes into what makes a familiar.

There’s so much more in the world to be considered a “familiar” than your typical black cat. D’Aoust takes a truly global approach to the conversation. Her discussion of Greek belly-talkers and sibyls and the source of their powers was eye-opening. The examination of the role of angels in Judeo-Christianity was something I never considered before as a “familiar” relationship. D’Aoust also looks at fairies, familiars in Chinese legend, and even their appearance in India. I also want to mention that the author’s own artwork is used throughout the book. It’s unusual that the author provides their own art, and in this case helps bring extra vitality to her words.

“Familiars in Witchcraft” is wonderful, global look at what defines a familiar and how that title is mutable depending on culture. A worthwhile read for all those interested in spirit.

You can learn more here.

Shop your local indie bookstore<---This is an affiliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Latin American Christianity: Colorful, Complex, Conflicted

It’s that time again! Although I don’t mention every issue on the site, when Christian History Magazine has a real stand out issue that I think would be of interest to you I like to give it a shout out.

Christian History Institute (CHI), publisher of Christian History magazine (CH), announces its latest issue, #130, titled: “Latin American Christianity: colorful, complex, conflicted.” The entire issue explores the formation of more than 20 Central and South American nations since the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and the continent’s conquest by Spanish Crown and Conquistadors (conquerors), and the emigration of various Europeans, Africans and Asians. This is the story of the Catholic Church acting as an arm of the powers of conquest, colonialism and oppression in Latin America and those who repeatedly opposed them. As in previous Christian History issues covering difficult topics such as the Crusades and US slavery, these stories demonstrate how Christians who made terrible mistakes inspire others to avoid mistakes of the past.

The articles contained within are:

Christianity converted by Brian Larkin – The initial encounters between Europeans and Latin Americans

Dancing sickness, ancient gods by Javier Villa-Flore – Religious traditions clashed in Latin America

A long road by Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva – Slavery and Christianity in colonial Latin America

Making faith their own by Matt Forster – Worship, devotion, and folk religion in Latin America

Strangers in a strange land by Joel Morales Cruz – Protestantism and power in nineteenth-century Latin America

“¡Llegaron los pentecostales!” by Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi – How Pentecostalism spread in Latin America and the Caribbean

Virgins, nuns, preachers by Evelmyn Ivens – The many roles of women in Latin American Christianity

“A new Pentecost” by Edgardo Colón-Emeric – The story of Medellín

Charity toward all by Charlie Self – Fascinating stories from 500 years of Latin American Christianity

Rooted and released by the editors with Justo L. González and Ondina E. González – Diversity and complexity mark today’s Latin American church

The best part is, it’s FREE to view online! Visit here to check it out!

Self-Love through the Sacred Feminine

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of goddesses, and so I’ll admit the main reason I wanted to check out Jo Jayson’s “Self-Love through the Sacred Feminine” was because the cover art was beautiful and the subtitle is “A Guide through the Paintings & Channelings of Jo Jayson”. I figured a book full of art like what was on the cover was worth a look.

“Self-Love through the Sacred Feminine: A Guide through the Paintings & Channelings of Jo Jayson” is a thoughtful exploration of what it is to identify as a woman. Jayson explores the lives/folklore and wisdom of Guinevere: The Queen, Mariamne of Magdala: The Magdalene, Brighid: Mother Goddess of Ireland, Isis: One Who is All, Mary: The Mother, Jeanne D’Arc: Maid of Orleans, Miriam: The Prophetess, Guan Yin: Mother of Compassion and Mercy, Morgan Le Fey: The Water Spirit, Artemis: Maiden of The Hunt, Kali Ma: The Dark Mother, Inanna: Star of Heaven and Earth, and Grandmother Spider: The Weaver.

First and foremost, the artwork is BEAUTIFUL! The book is hardcover with full color glossy pages, perfect for showcasing Jayson’s work. Each entry includes a brief history lesson and what we can learn from them. There is also a prayer and then some exercises you can work through. “Self-Love through the Sacred Feminine” is equal parts artbook, workbook, and history lesson. It’s wonderful book!

You can learn more here.

The Heart of the Goddess

“The Heart of the Goddess: Art, Myth and Meditations of the World’s Sacred Feminine” by Hallie Iglehart Austen was originally published in 1990, but Austen felt the time was right to bring it back.

She’s right. In this time of #resistance, Austen’s look at universal spiritual feminism is right on the mark. Respect for the earth, community building, and reclaiming the power womanhood all blend together in “The Heart of the Goddess”. Instead of your typical who’s who of female deities, Austen discusses each goddess from the perspective of a piece of artwork featuring the deity. This allows for a discussion of the origin of the art (geography and date) and with it, the history and culture surrounding the goddess.

To make “The Heart of the Goddess” a spiritual journey for the reader, the deities are collected into 3 parts: Creation, Transformation, and Celebration. Along the way Austen presents meditations, prayers, and thought exercises with the goddesses.

Regardless of how many books you own or have read about goddesses, I guarantee you that you’ve never encountered anything like this. Informative, spiritual, and filled with art pieces from antiquity to contemporary times, “The Heart of the Goddess” is, and will remain, a classic.

Learn more here.

Medieval Lay Mystics

Christian History magazine is back with a new issue I thought many of you would be interested to check out, the latest issue is titled “Medieval Lay Mystics”.

Christian History Institute (CHI), publisher of Christian History magazine (CHM), announces its latest issue, titled: “Medieval Lay Mystics”. The entire issue explores a mysterious question for many Christians, historians and scholars – What did it look like and what did it feel like to be a medieval Christian?

Spanning four vivid centuries, from 1000 to 1473, CHM issue #127 takes an in-depth look at the lives of notable medieval mystics, especially those who were not ordained clergy.

By the twelfth century devout women, monks and hermits came out of seclusion to preach and minister to others, proclaiming the gospel in local languages so that common people could understand it. They called on both fellow laypeople and clergy to repent and enter a genuine relationship with Christ. This spiritual process, culminating in an inner, mystical union became known as mysticism.

Scholars agree, that around the twelfth century, a variety of forces led to a cultural and spiritual renewal among those living outside formal religious institutions and traditions. First by thousands, then by the tens of thousands, common people responded to the gospel. Thirsty for a vital Christian life, they fostered devotional lifestyles, joining various movements of piety and service to others that offered opportunities to grow spiritually.

Three centuries before the Reformation, scholars began to also translate the Bible into local languages. Outdoor preaching became common and itinerant preachers traveled across Europe calling people to a life of repentance. This led to 300 years of repeated revival movements and waves of spiritual renewal across Western Europe leading up to the Reformation, which began around 1500.

“People from these movements penned timeless devotional classics, many still popular, writing of their desire to reach a mystical oneness with the Christ they loved,” said the managing editor of Christian History, Jennifer Woodruff Tait. “Here, I think, is the point where we can connect their lives with ours. We both desire to learn how to be more devoted to Jesus.”

CH issue #127, contains 7 features and 4 shorter side-bar articles; a chronology time-line; an archive of rare art-work & photos; a ‘letter to the editor’ section and an extensive reading list compiled by the CHM editorial staff.

I read the issue and found it an interesting, worthwhile read. What’s great is, you can read this issue, all their past issues, and access all sorts of other resources for FREE on their website! You can find it all here.