Saturday, December 20, 2014

Roots and Renewal

Exploring Our Hebraic Heritage, a  Christian Theology of Roots and Renewal is by Marvin R. Wilson, who is Ockenga Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Gordon College in Massachusetts. This actually is his second book on the subject as in 1989 he wrote Our Father Abraham, Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith.  Both books are from Eerdmans, at I have often wondered why Jews and Christians are so against each other when they share the same God and the same Scriptures. It was definitely a mystery to me, but not so much now that I am reading Wilson's books.

Wilson lays this book out in five parts: Theological Sources and Methods; People of God: An Abrahamic  Family; God and His Ways; An Approaching God; and Moving into the Future. Each part has several chapters, broken down to explain Jewish history and opinion for their 4,000 years, as well as our 2,000 years of Christian history and opinion since the birth of Christ. Wilson claims that Christians need Jewish texts and stories of their culture, to learn what happened when. He offers a "call to explore and to learn more of the richness and depth of the roots of Christian faith."

Wilson believes and teaches that in order to "know and understand the Jewish origins of Christianity we must not limit ourselves to only Christian sources. We need the benefit of engaging Jewish commentaries of Scripture as well."

As the church began to grow in the early first and second centuries after Christ, differences occurred until there began to be "an adversarial relationship between church and synagogue." If we look back through history, we will see the results of that, even down to the Holocaust and on. Wilson urges us to remember that "despite our long and painful adversarial relationship from the close of the biblical era through most of the twentieth century...the areas we share in common are far greater than those teachings, beliefs, and practices that divide us." Christians and Jews do share much common ground, as Wilson points out, but both groups have been uninformed or unwilling to explore and consider these facts. Perhaps the times are changing, on both sides of this divide.

Wish I had more room but here are a few quotes from Wilson: "God owns the book." "There is a pattern throughout the Scriptures: "God initiates; man responds." And "it might be surprising to many Christians, to discover that the first five books of the Bible, the Law of Moses, is the place where Christians and Jews often find considerable common ground. Themes such as creation, covenant, redemption, revelation, worship, holiness, love, compassion, moral law, ethics, and social justice are central to the teaching of the Torah and are correspondingly foundational  to Christian biblical thought." Marvin Wilson, with his books and teachings for those who are listening, may continue to turn the tide and bring Christians and Jews together, as we should be.

---Lois Sibley,

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tolkien as Professor and Author...

Have you read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings? If yes, you probably know that they have been acclaimed #1 in many polls and lists around the world. Current estimates put The Lord of the Rings as selling well over 150 million copies, with The Hobbit at over 100 million copies sold. It is amazing when you also read that these are books that "very nearly weren't."

The Hobbit was first published by Allen & Unwin in the UK. It so happened that Mr. Unwin liked to ask his son Rayner, who was 10 years old at the time, to give his opinion after reading a book they might publish. Rayner liked The Hobbit so it was published.

This book is called Tolkien: How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century. It is written by Devin Brown, who is a Lilly Scholar and a Professor of English at Asbury University, as well as an expert on both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. This new biography of Tolkien by Brown is published in the U.S. by Abingdon Press, at

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born January 3, 1892, not in England but in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, the former colony we now know as South Africa. His father. Arthur, was manager for a branch of the Bank of Africa. When Ronald was four, his homesick-for-England-mom, took Ronald and his brother Hilary (then two), back to England for family visits. While his family was in England, Arthur Tolkien died and was buried there in South Africa. This left the boys and their mother Mabel with family but what to do? Mabel was homeschooling for awhile but moved her little family several times in the Birmingham area, near schools she wanted the boys to attend. The boys loved living in the country and the scenery, woods and trees, a mill on a river, and other attractive scenes stayed in Ronald's mind when he began writing stories and eventually The Hobbit.

Schooling meant the need for scholarships.  Ronald admitted he was not a good student, often studying languages he loved instead of what was required to gain scholarship aid. He did eventually attend King Edward's School, then Exeter College, and then Oxford. And suddenly, there was World War I and he became a Second Lieut. in 1915. And in March 1916 he and his long-time love, Edith Bratt, were married. Tolkien had to go off to war, where he caught Trench Fever and was very ill, and finally returned to Birmingham Hospital for recuperation. As his health improved he was able to begin teaching, first at Leeds College, then back to Oxford, where he remained.

There, he met C. S. Lewis and the two professors-authors became good friends, sharing, critiqueing, and encouraging each other on their writings. Thus, the Inklings group began again, meeting each week to talk and share their work. Still, it was many years before Tolkien's The Hobbit, accepted by Allen & Unwin in 1930, was published in 1937; and even more years before his The Lord of the Rings, accepted in 1937, was finally published in 1954.

It took a long time, but eventually The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings "were translated into more than 40 different languages, and became beloved, best sellers all over the world."

---Lois Sibley