Sunday, December 31, 2023

2023: Books I've Read and Where TRB is Going

Based on consistent posting this year, I’ve been able to see what kinds of subjects you prefer to read about. The Renaissance Biologist has since its inception been a wider-ranging blog, so I don’t think it can meet your reading needs in its present form. Therefore, once you’ve checked out my 2023 reading list for recommendations . . .

Head to The Bibliovore's Wife for the latest posts on philosophy, book reflections, and home education!

By the Numbers

How many books did I complete this year? 66!

How many of those books were wholly or in part via Audible? 9, mostly toward year's end as I used my phone on cold walks more.

How many pages in total? Excluding those on the DNF list (because I don't remember how far I got in any of them), and the Audible-only books (because they were not printed for me to access), 17,849 (mean of 49 pages per day, which seems excessive to me).

Which books did I enjoy the most? See green-highlighted titles in the list below!

List in Chronological Order

DNF List: because of being repetitive, not useful, or with anemic theology

  1. Curtain & Pesola. Languages and Children: Making the Match. Why didn’t I finish? Can't apply to homeschool. Repetitive.
  2. C. Kruse. John (commentary). Why didn’t I finish? Repetitive, predictable.
  3. A. Murray. With Christ in the School of Prayer. Why didn’t I finish? Nauseatingly pietistic.

Finished: most productive months were May (11), March (9), and December (7-8). Least productive months were June (2), August (2), and April/February (4).

  1. (Theology) 1/1 A. Thiselton. Why Hermeneutics? Helpful glossary. Feels like philosophy Cliff notes. Strong-of-pearls vs argument. Case for Humanities hermeneutics course.
  2. (Philosophy) 1/11 T. Kuhn. Structure of Scientific Revolutions (re-read). First time fall 2017. Flowed better, no surprises.
  3. (Theology) 1/17 H. Ferrer. Mama Bear Apologetics (re-read). First time winter 2021 (ish). Decent job summarizing "isms" with balance. Informality was less bothersome this time around.
  4. (Historical novel) 1/21 L. C. Douglas. The Robe (a novel!!). Mostly good character development, OK history.
  5. (Education) 1/28 K. Andreola. A Charlotte Mason Companion (re-read). Detailed enough to design/implement. 1990s - pietist, resources outdated.
  6. (Sexual ethics) 2/12 S. Alberry. Why does God care who I sleep with? Christianity on sexuality for a non-Christian audience.
  7. (Philosophy) 2/15 A. MacIntyre. After Virtue, 3rd ed. "Practical" to Husband = "only superficially theoretical" to me. Read and find Aristotle useful on virtues (but, as we'll see later, not for everything).
  8. (Theology) 2/25 N. T. Wright. The Challenge of Jesus. See black notebook for notes.
  9. (Theology) 2/26 G. Ortlund. Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage. Need all on both sides to read! 4-tier system is helpful.
  10. (Philosophical novel) 3/4 C. S. Lewis. Space Trilogy. (3 books on Audible) Philosophy sci-fi for Christian adults!
  11. Book 2: Perelandra
  12. Book 3: That Hideous Strength
  13. (Theology) 3/11 N. T. Wright. Paul. Fleshes out Challenge (notebook).
  14. (Origins philosophy) 3/13 A. Plantiga. Where the Conflict Really Lies. Evolution is OK with theism; neither are ok with naturalism.
  15. (Theology) 3/18 M. Bird et al. How God Became Jesus. Response to Bart Ehrman.
  16. (Theology) 3/18 J. Jeremias. Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries. It was the norm, and theologically supported.
  17. (Academia) 3/19 R. Fitzpatrick. Write Useful Books. Longevity! Worth a re-read.
  18. (Devotional) 3/24 H. Blackaby. Experiencing God. (Re-read). Pietistic/Baptist background.
  19. (Philosophy/theology) 4/3 M. Noll. Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grab quotes!
  20. (Academia) 4/8 D. Carnegie. The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking. Classic self-help: attitude, be oneself, extraversion, care about audience.
  21. (Education) 4/8 J. Capeheart. Cherishing and Challenging Your Children. I know most/out of date except age-appropriate chores.
  22. (Sexual ethics) 4/12 S. Klusendorf. The Case for Life. Lay-level, systematic, rational, gracious. Should be part of church curricula.
  23. (Leadership) 4/22 A. Morgan & C. Lynch. Leading From the Front. Practical female leadership advice.
  24. (Theology) 5/4 N. T. Wright. Surprised by Hope.
  25. (Philosophy) 5/9 Plato. Republic (full). Full of himself. Husband's note: Since I read a substantial number of additional dialogues, this actually counts for 5 more.
  26. (Academia) 5/9 P. J. Silva. How to Write a Lot. Schedule it like a 2-3 hour class time.
  27. (Education) 5/14 C. Mason. Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education. PDF/e-reader from Smidgen Press.
  28. (Education) 5/21 K. Magro. Autistics on Autism. Moved to CUW office.
  29. (Education/theology) 5/27 S. Ashmon. The Idea and Practice of a Christian University. LCMS view.
  30. (Devotional) 5/28 P. Scazzero. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Updated). Gnostic, prep for Sunday school.
  31. (Novel) 6/7 J. Austen. Pride and Prejudice (re-read!) (NOVEL!).
  32. (Novel) 6/23 G. Bowers. Lost Dragon of Wessex. Took forever for story to get moving, but it was a good story. Smidgen Press.
  33. (Theology/history) 7/12 M. Holmes. The Apostolic Fathers. Awesome except for Shepherd of Hermas which was weird.
  34. (Theology) 7/17 A. Childers. Another Gospel? Reformed stereotypes.
  35. (Theology) 7/25 D. Groothuis. Christian Apologetics (2nd ed.). Brick was pretty good!
  36. (Education) 7/29 J. Gottman. Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. Emotion coaching!
  37. (Sexual ethics) 7/30 L. Jacobson & P. Masonheimer. The Flirtation Experiment. Got deeper well!
  38. (Theology) 8/12 N. T. Wright. The Day the Revolution Began. Crucifixion as part of Israel's narrative/plan (Paul loved Judaism; God has one covenant, of vocation our primary goal; sin as symptom of idolatry).
  39. (Disability theology) 8/21 A. Kenny. My Body is Not a Prayer Request. Charismatic, for class.
  40. (History/philosophy) 9/2 C. Evans. A History of Western Philosophy. Clear read!
  41. (Novel) 9/3 N. Juster. The Phantom Tollbooth (re-read) (novel)
  42. (Theology) 9/10 S. McKnight. Reading Romans Backwards. (re-read)
  43. (Academia) 9/16 H. Lipmanowicz & K. McCandless. The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures. Last part helpful. Small-group interactions.
  44. (Education) 9/25 C. Kranowitz. The Out-of-Sync Child. Sensory processing disorder.
  45. (Theology) 9/30 G. Yancey & A. Qosigk. One Faith No Longer. Evangelicalism's split in the USA.
  46. (Philosophy/theology) 10/11 D. Sayers. The Whimsical Christian. Theology-in-literature (allegory, poetry, translation of Dante).
  47. (Academia) 10/12 R. Ritchhart & M. Church. The Power of Making Thinking Visible.
  48. (History/theology) 10/12 J. Walton & J. Walton. The Lost World of the Torah. Wanted to copy every paragraph!
  49. (Theology) 10/13 N. Crain. Faithfully Different.
  50. (Theology) 10/21 N. T. Wright. For All the Saints? Short, clarifies CTK Sunday (misplaced), 11/1, and 11/2 regarding the resurrection.
  51. (Theology) 11/5 N. T. Wright. The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology. Essays on Torah, Christ, exegesis.
  52. (Social justice) 11/6 M. Desmond. Evicted. Recommended novel of sorts.
  53. (Academia/philosophy/theology) 11/19 N. Wolterstorff. Educating for Shalom. Dutch Reformed, quite silly.
  54. (Novel) 12/7 J. R. R. Tolkien. The Hobbit. (Audible--re-read).
  55. (Sexual ethics) 12/9 J. Gottman. 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work (finally!) (Audible) (in progress since 9/2020)
  56. (Academia) 12/15 M. Berg & B. K. Seeber. The Slow Professor
  57. (Origins/theology) 12/15 D. Lamoreux. Evolutionary Creation. I wish I had had this back in undergrad!
  58. (Sexual ethics) 12/22 P. Sprinkle. People to be Loved. (Audible).
  59. (Theology) N. T. Wright. After You Believe. (paper and Audible)
  60. (Novel) J. R. R. Tolkien. Fellowship of the Ring. (Audible, re-read)
  61. (Theology) C. Watkin. Biblical Critical Theory. (paper and Audible). Husband finished book #64 last night and has a stack of thin books-in-progress, so there is no way I can catch up.

Thanks for sticking with me this year! I hope you saw some books that you liked and/or would like to read. See you starting next week over at The Bibliovore's Wife!

Friday, December 22, 2023

End-of-year Educational Reflections

Now that finals week is done in most places (at least undergraduate and graduate!), it's time for those involved in education to reflect on the happenings of the semester, and potentially the year. I find it useful to reflect in the middle as well as at the end, and indeed, I have two more semesters of teaching remaining in this academic year. What have we (author and readers) learned about education this year?

Graduate Teacher's Perspective

As you may know, I have taught since 2021 in a doctor of physical therapy program that uses a flipped-classroom model for course delivery. This year, I am now at the point of having taught each relevant course at least twice, and most 3-4 times, which anecdotally sets me up for actually knowing what I'm doing. Adding on to that committee work, scholarship, and advising duties, I have a busy-looking daily to-do list.

The Good

As I just mentioned, I am now more comfortable teaching the many courses I am either wholly or partially responsible for. As a result of finding out what things work, and being able to copy a course from one to another part of the university's learning management system, I am now more efficient. In the flipped classroom, lectures are pre-recorded and the videos and PDF slides posted for students to go through on their own outside of class meeting time. Updating lectures now means just going to the slide(s) in question, updating the appearance and/or script, re-recording that slide, and letting my computer create the video out of the updated file.

Having taught for almost 3 academic years, I am now also seeing the growth from students I taught in the first year who are at the point in their third year of going out into the clinical world and--very soon--taking the licensure exam. While it's hard for someone to see their own day-to-day change, it's easy for others to compare across longer time intervals and comment on what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Finally, the end-of-semester program assessment meeting took place earlier this week. The main focus was on student-related concerns, resulting in a good group knowledge of where everyone is academically and professionally, and what to change or focus on in instructional and classroom management strategies moving forward. One example is that many or all of my fellow professors will strengthen their attendance/tardiness policies in order to foster the professional behavior of timeliness in the students who struggle more with it as a cohort.

The Bad

Learning by experience tends to be more immediately effective via challenging experiences, and this semester and year have had their share. A 2010 opinion piece holds true in what we're seeing in 2023, in terms of emotional (im)maturity of students and the impacts of such a state. To partially mitigate this, each applicant to our program completes a grit self-assessment scale, and advising meetings help to establish where the student is in terms of professional behaviors (sample assessment tool and list/descriptors here).

That said, particular issues I've seen in the current cohorts include stronger resistance to active learning ("why am I paying tuition if I have to teach myself?"), fear of trying to apply content during studying without having proverbial hand-holding, prioritization of non-academic hobbies, and resistance to professional socialization. Sometimes, the issues coalesce and result in a lower semester grade average than needed to maintain good standing in the program, and other times dismissal with the need to reapply and start the program all over again. There's only so much that a professor or advisor can say to an advisee in hopes of seeing the (sometimes drastic) behavior changes needed to succeed in the program and beyond.

From a university level, typical challenges have involved ever-evolving standards with sometimes-delayed communication about how to implement those standards. This is par for the course in the 21st century, but it's still a stressor.

Early Childhood Educator's Perspective

While I'm technically not specifically/formally trained in early childhood education, I do have an "early" child and am providing education to said Child. Over the past year, I've had some delightful learnings in the background to this process and its outworking in our family life.

Parental Preparation

Both Husband and I have prepared ourselves to better educate Child by continuing our inveterate reading habits. Husband is slightly ahead of me in book total for the year (though with enough books-in-progress to potentially reach 80, as he gloated to me today); I have 4 books in progress that may bring me to 60 by December 31 if I'm diligent. Most of these have been in the 200-600 page range, and since the weather got cold I've shifted toward a few audiobooks to compensate for gloved fingers.

What categories of books have we read? You'll have to wait for next week's post to find out more detail, but my reading areas have been theology, origins debates, and philosophical history. Husband's have been similar, with the addition of biblical book commentaries and ancient history to prepare for potential graduate work in philosophy. 

Child Development

Child has been learning by imitation, as is appropriate for this time of life. Favorite items to imitate right now, by incessant repetition, are dancing steps, musical notes, vowel sounds, and pragmatic words. We have gotten over 630 hours outside for the year so far, which I am quite proud of!

Young Christian Family's Perspective

Not only are Husband and I educating Child and my own university students in skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them for their vocations, but also we seek to center our lives on our Christian faith. How have we done that this year?

At Home

It has now been almost two years since we transferred from the LCMS to the ACNA. If anything, the regularity of our faith life has increased (not by much in busy seasons). Part of Anglican identity is linked to consistent, individual/family use of the Book of Common Prayer for at least one Daily Office. My Bible reading plan since finishing again a month or so ago has been to read the morning and evening Office readings, which will take me through the majority of the canonical and apocryphal books.

As a family, we model practices and behaviors to each other, such as mealtime prayers, Morning or Evening Prayer with Child, and reminders of social standards of behavior such as using vocal pitches that don't hurt other people's ears, and not throwing breakable or spillable items. Last week, I started reading After You Believe (Wright, 2009), which is reminding me as I read of the need to inculcate virtue on an ongoing basis by means of guiding Child through repeated small choices.

At Church

One thing I'm really thankful for about the ACNA (which may be true of parts of other denominations as well) is its use of a single liturgy, every single Sunday. The translations of the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds (Latin using "I" and Greek using "We" but ACNA tweaking singular versus plural) were just different enough to take us almost the first year to get used to without referring back to the BCP. 

A major result of this repetition is that Child can and does participate fully in the entire service with the occasional exception of the sermon. There's enough movement of music, antiphonal response, and different readers and worship assistants that there is no lapse in attention in 60-75 minutes. Lately, we have been hearing an almost-tuneful vowel version of the Doxology on repeat whenever Child is waking up, awake, or falling asleep. The point at which this occurs in the service is consistent, with clear cues, both helpful for drawing Child's attention to learn the rhythm and pitch progression.

We've learned from other families as well. Several in the congregation also homeschool, and at least one blends homeschooling with externally supported group classical-cum-Charlotte Mason education. The final exams in this method, which I regrettably didn't have exposure to in my experience of being homeschooled, involve written essays without prior review. One 4th (?) grader whose mother I talked to recently wrote 15 pages of essays in one day of finals, freely recalling and explaining everything he knew about the persons and phenomena in the essay prompts.

Lastly, for our own and others' edification, Husband and I have been learning Greek and going through Surprised by Hope, almost to the end of chapter 4 after a full semester. Chapters 3 and 4 of the book are summaries of Wright's 800-page works, so we've spent a little over a month on each. Through spring quarter/semester, we plan to finish the book, which ties in at the end with themes from After You Believe.

What have you learned this year that was valuable to you?

Friday, December 15, 2023

Short History of Lessons and Carols

Throughout my childhood and continuing into adulthood, Lessons and Carols has been an important part of my Advent life. Did you grow up in a theological tradition that included this? Whether you did or didn't, have you ever wondered about the history of the practice?

Links based on pin above:

How Long has Advent Been Celebrated?

The 40-day season of pre-Christmas preparation has been documented as observed since the 5th or 6th century. The fasting component, analogous to what may be done during Lent, was documented before the season was, and started around the Feast of St. Andrew.

I had not heard of fasting during Advent, in my reading about and interaction with people from various Christian traditions. So, I decided to dig a little deeper on this small tangent. Forms of Advent fasting seem to be practiced mainly in Roman Catholicism. I like this quote from author Laura O'Callaghan:

"Fasting detaches our spirit from this world, teaches us self-control, and helps us to long for God as the fulfillment of all our desires. That is perfect for Advent."

Eastern Orthodox Christians also fast, being in a similar tradition. In both cases, fasting is used as a means to an end of stronger awareness of God's work and presence.

What is Lessons & Carols?

This service or feast is celebrated on Christmas Eve at King's College in Cambridge, England. It may be celebrated on another day in other churches--for example, the second Sunday of Advent in the church I used to attend. The combined musical talent of the congregation seems to dictate whether or not there will be a service. Some sample orders of service can be found here: Anglican Compass, WELS, UMC.
  • Lesson 1: Genesis 3:8-15, 17-19 (Adam's seed promise)
    • Carol 1 (King's College): Once in Royal David's City
  • Lesson 2: Genesis 22:15-18 (Abraham's-seed promise)
  • Lesson 3: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (Savior prophecy)
  • Lesson 4: Isaiah 11:1-3a, 4a, 6-9 (Christ's peace)
  • Lesson 5: Luke 1:26-35, 38 (Gabriel speaks to Mary)
  • Lesson 6: Luke 2:1, 3-7 (Jesus' birth)
  • Lesson 7: Luke 2:8-16 (shepherds at manger)
  • Lesson 8: Matthew 2:1-12 (wise men and guiding star)
  • Lesson 9: John 1:1-14 (Incarnation-mystery)
    • Carol (King's College): Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Why Have Lessons & Carols (in Advent)?

Music has a way of touching people in ways that words or other media can't or don't. Given that Advent (whether or not one fasts during it) is meant to be a season of preparation, Lessons & Carols as deliberate musical selection has several benefits. I can think of at least three:
  • Listening to the lyrics and singing along with them reinforces familiar messages as part of the Christmas narrative. This reinforcement reminds the conscious and unconscious mind of what is coming.
  • The set order of service, with most Lessons & Carols services using traditional carols and hymns along with set readings, is a good vehicle to expose more people to the best traditional (i.e., at least 100-200 years old) music.
  • Repetition of set readings paired with familiar music can aid with Scriptural literacy, of the important texts telling the story of the "why" and "when" of Christmas in the scheme of God's story and work.

When and Where did Lessons and Carols Start?

The roots of this feast are in the 1880s, but the actual celebration thereof did not start until around 1918 in Cornwall, England. The linked article has some other interesting facts about the feast, including:
  • In Victorian-era (1837-1901) England, the whole country was undergoing a revival of carol singing at the time.
  • The order of service goes back to the 1880s. Bishop Benson of Truro wanted to minister to his parishioners while the local cathedral was coming to be. He chose 9 lessons from Old and New Testaments that together pointed toward the Incarnation. He (or bishop successors) read the ninth reading each year.
  • In post-WWI England, Chaplain Milner-White modified the music aspect of the order of service in order to draw people into the Christmas spirit, and began presenting the annual performances from King's College.
  • Each year since 1931, except for 2020, has had a live broadcast from King's College; the 2020 broadcast was pre-recorded.
  • The first verse of "Once in Royal David's City," the first carol, is traditionally sung by a chorister who doesn't know he'll be picked, but whom the cantor knows is in good voice that day.
What has your experience been with this feast? Go and enjoy a listen!

Friday, December 8, 2023

Baptismal Birthday Thoughts

My baptismal birthday is December 3; I was baptized at 3 months old. Let's explore the story of why I was baptized and what it has done in my life since then.

What Happened Back Then?

I was baptized as an infant; my parents had been life-long Lutherans (LCMS) but were attending a Vineyard church at the time. This church body did not (and to my knowledge still does not) endorse infant baptism, though it has become more conservative over recent years, so my parents asked a pastor with LCMS training to come to our house. 

The rite of Holy Baptism, as practiced in the LCMS, has a version that is applicable for regular (in context of a Divine Service) and two versions applicable for emergency baptism. I don't know which one was used, or whether my godparents were present, by the photo I have. However, based on what I know of my parents, I think the full rite was performed. This includes
  • Invocation of the triune God--signifying that what will happen is God's work because it is performed in His name (He doesn't have physical hands, so He uses humans' hands)
  • Prayers for the baptized invoking Scriptural promises
  • Reading from Mark 16 indicating that belief and baptism normally accompany each other
  • Lord's Prayer
  • Renunciation by the baptized (and/or sponsors if the baptized is nonverbal) of Satan and confession of each portion of the Apostles' Creed (a summary of core Christian teachings)
  • Giving of token(s) of baptismal commemoration (e.g., candle)
At Child's baptism, we also sang LSB 594. Take a look at the words!

Infant Baptism

According to early sources such as the Didache (one of the first "catechisms"), infant baptism was part of the normal practice of the Christian church from the beginning. Here's a quote Husband read to me the other day:

"The children shall be baptized first. All of the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or someone else from their family."

I have written elsewhere about how Baptism (bringing salvific faith along) became for Christians the sign of one being brought into the covenant family, replacing circumcision which had the same function in Judaism.

Adult Baptism

In the first generations of Christianity, most people who came to the faith did so as adults or at least older children (although, again, "household" includes all members of the family, down to the very youngest, potentially pre-verbal). This site presents pretty typically seen rationales for being baptized as an adult today, although the justifications for excluding younger individuals are predictably weak.

Belief Without Baptism?

Based on the sources above and other apostolic writings and Scriptural texts, yes, belief is possible without baptism. However, baptism is the normal "front door" in to the Church (i.e., the family of God). So, if you believe in Christ but are not baptized, get baptized!

What Happened Since Then?

Short story, I stayed in the faith thanks to God's grace worked out through people and circumstances.

Christian Influences

Earlier this year, I wrote about my prayer life and its influences. While the frequency and intensity of my prayer, as well as its format, varies by season of life, the influences have worked in all dimensions of my life, in which the Christian faith is central. 

What Happens Now?

As I have (hopefully) established, baptism grafts someone into the body (family) of Christ, at which time they continue in the way of following Christ to stay in His family. For me, two regular activities that especially nurture my faith and pattern of good works are studying the Scriptures and completing the Daily Office.

Salutary Study

As I wrote earlier this year, my patterns and resources for Bible study have changed over the years. These days, I desire to know more of the world and thought processes of the human authors God inspired, so I have been reading works by authors such as N. T. Wright, John Walton, Chris Watkin, and (most recently) Denis Lamoreux.

Please permit me a brief soapbox on one thing I do not do: Bible journaling (sources are Imperfect HomemakerReasonable TheologyJourney of the Word, and Lifeway). Why don't I do this in order to grow in the Word? The two major reasons are pedagogical and philosophical.

Pedagogically, Bible journaling tends to lead to a memorization level of knowledge only (the lowest level of Bloom's taxonomy), signifying minimal to no true learning. Memorization is a fine first step. However, if I'm not growing past that, I have no understanding of what the text actually means besides my own interpretation of what it says in translation, and no capacity to properly apply what God intended the text to say. It's easy to get caught up in making artwork when Bible journaling, diverting time and attention from actual Bible study and sound exegesis.

Philosophically, Bible journaling is completely in line with expressive individualism because of "how the text strikes me" rather than relying on the sincere work of those who have devoted their careers to scholarship related to exegeting the text. Particular dangers of expressive individualism for the Christian include alienation from other members of the Body of Christ, pride in oneself, and abandonment of Scriptural thought categories in favor of using thoroughly secular categories in thinking and speaking.

Daily Office

The Daily Office 2019 site has readings and/or orders of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the 2019 Book of Common Prayer published by the ACNA. It has been my practice since 7th grade to read through the entire Bible approximately once per year; this year, I am using the Daily Office sequence to get me through the majority of the Bible, including the complete book of Psalms every 2 months. 

For taking breaks during the day, I have been doing at least one of Morning, Midday, or Evening prayer, in the short (family-prayer) or full version depending on Child's tolerance. The single liturgy at each time of day, with a limited number of options for readings and more options for scripted prayers (collects), holds his attention and enables his fuller participation because he knows what's coming.

What do you do with your families (or yourselves) to grow in the faith given at your Baptism?

Friday, December 1, 2023

Older and Newer Called Ones

Continuing with the November trend at this blog of exploring feasts related to saints, I wanted to feature two Christians this week. St. Andrew, one of the Apostles, is commemorated on November 30. C. S. Lewis, at least for Anglicans and Episcopalians, is optionally commemorated on the 29th. This post will be a little shorter than normal, and will hopefully whet your appetite to learn more about these called ones as well as your own calling.

St. Andrew

Canonized very early on, Andrew the Apostle died late in the first century AD (60-70). Relative to the death/martyrdom dates of the other Apostles, he was somewhere in the middle. According to an apocryphal source, he died over 3 days while preaching the entire time.
  • Bartholomew--unknown, potentially along with Philip
  • James--unknown due to apocryphal or pseudoepigraphal traditions
  • Jude--unknown
  • Matthias--unknown due to obscurity
  • Judas Iscariot--33 AD (suicide)
  • James--44 AD
  • Matthew--60 AD
  • Simon the Zealot--61-65 AD
  • Andrew--60-70 AD
  • Peter--64 AD
  • Paul--before 68 AD
  • Thomas--72 AD
  • Philip--80 AD (confused sometime with Philip the Evangelist)
  • John--98 AD or after (old age)
Tradition holds that Andrew was the first called by Jesus. As such, the LCMS congregation I grew up in developed a St. Andrew Society for acolytes who continued to serve after confirmation. The medallion has gone missing over the years, but here's a St. Andrew icon.

Although St. Andrew did not write anything that we know of, there are texts written of him. If you use the Book of Common Prayer, here are the appointed readings:
Additionally, if your congregation has a service commemorating the red-letter feast day, there is a collect:

"Almighty God, you gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever."

C. S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis (b. 1898, d. on JFK's assassination date), understandably abbreviating his name to his initials in most writing, was a prolific reader and writer whose commemoration in the Episcopal tradition started in his year of death (1963), is listed in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer as a Teacher of the Faith. I have written elsewhere about some of his writing. Because he is not canonized as a saint (though he is of course a saint in the Christian sense), he does not have any Daily Office readings in the printed version of the BCP, but there are readings and a collect in the online version.

Almighty God, you gave your servant C. S. Lewis special gifts of grace to understand and speak the truth revealed in Christ Jesus: Grant that by this teaching we may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

What Did He Write?

Lots of things! I've listed a few samples from each category that I could find, some of which I've read and some I haven't.

Apologetics works:
  • The Problem of Pain
  • Miracles

  • The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (anthology)

Fantasy literature for children
  • Chronicles of Narnia!

Fantasy literature for adults
  • Space Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength
  • The Great Divorce

Articles/other scholarship
  • English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama
  • Studies in Words

Book reviews
  • Contained in: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature

Prefaces to older books
  • A Preface to Paradise Lost
  • Arthurian Torso

Friday, November 24, 2023

Clement of Rome: Interview with the Bibliovore!

Happy Thanksgiving! Because this month's blog focus is on holiday-related reading, and November 24 is the commemoration of Clement of Rome, I realized I wanted to learn more about him. When I was a child, I read a lot of biographies, specifically of Christians in the 1800s and 1900s. These days, thanks to the influence of C. S. Lewis, I'm trying to read about slightly older people (100s-1600s). Today, due to the proximal commemoration of St. Clement, I interviewed Husband to whet your appetite about Clement of Rome. The bulk of the post is the transcript. Outside links for your additional reference:

  • This site has a translation of 1 Clement
  • Ligonier Ministries had a brief podcast discussing justification by faith present in this epistle.
  • Downs 2013 engages in a more focused, scholarly way on how Clement uses Romans 5-6 in connecting themes of creation, justification, and good works.
  • Oxford Bibliographies draws together various sources that provide summaries and orientation to the book

Who Was Clement?

"Clement of Rome lived a couple generations before Clement of Alexandria; the latter flourished toward the end turn of the 3rd century, whereas Clement of Rome flourished at the turn of the 2nd century. Clement of Alexandria’s thought was heavily influenced influenced by Platonism and laced with philosophical reflection, whereas Clement of Rome’s is much more down to earth and practical (for the most part; there’s a section of phoenixes that gets a little odd, but for the most part he’s quite straightforward). . .

"One point that’s frequently dismissed in critical scholarship in Eusebius’s 4th century report that Clement of Rome is the Clement mentioned by Paul in Philippians 4:3, “…help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers…” Whether this identification was made solely on the basis of the name or wherever there was a tradition behind it isn’t known. Even if Eusebius was just taking a stab at finding Clement of Rome in scripture because the names matched, it still wouldn’t necessarily rule out that this is the same person. True, Clement was a fairly common name, but it is probable that Clement of Rome did in fact personally know Paul as well as Peter. His letter has noticeably Pauline theology, albeit, not as refined as that of Paul himself. The identification of Clement of Rome with the Clement in Philippians 4:3, while not indubitable, is also not improbable.
Clement of Rome was almost certainly a contemporary of Luke, Timothy, Titus, and Mark. His letter was produced in the same period of church history as New Testament books like the Gospels, Acts, Hebrews, and Revelation. When approaching the study of the early church from a historical vantage point, his letter is a source on par with such books of the New Testament, even though it is not itself scripture. (Eusebius and Jerome have helpful discussions as to why it was excluded from the New Testament canon.)"

Why is Clement (of Rome) Important?

"Roman Catholics claim him as an early pope, though early listings of the bishops of Rome differ as to whether he was the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th bishop of Rome. Anglicans, Lutherans, the Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox also hold in extremely high regard—though Lutherans and most Anglicans don’t venerate saints in the same manner that Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans and Lutherans arguably have the better claim to stick to his theology, which will be apparent in the quote I’ll share. . .

"A) Ch. 5, on Peter and Paul:
“(1) But to pass from the examples of ancient times, let us come to those champions who lived nearest to our time. Let us set before us the noble examples which belong to our own generation. (2) Because of jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars were persecuted, and fought to the death. (3) Let us set before our eyes the good apostles. (4) There was Peter, who, because of unrighteous jealousy, endured not one or two but many trials, and thus having given his testimony went to his appointed place of glory. (5) Because of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the way to the prize for patient endurance. (6) After he had been seven times in chains, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, and had preached in the East and in the West, he won the genuine glory for his faith, (7) having taught righteousness to the whole world and having reached the farthest limits of the West. Finally, when he had given his testimony before the rulers, he thus departed from the world and went to the holy place, having become an outstanding example of patient endurance.”
(Though I already mentioned that this is our earliest source attesting the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul, there are several other things worth noting about this quote. First, Clement’s Greek term parallels one of Paul’s from Galatians 2 when Clement refers to both Peter and Paul as ‘pillars’, just as Paul said of Peter, James, and John in Galatians 2:9. This strongly suggests that Clement knows of no lasting rift between Peter and Paul as a result of the Galatians 2 incident. Second, in literature of this period, “farthest limits of the West” frequently refers to the Strait of Gibraltar separating Spain/the Iberian Peninsula from Africa and the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. This seems to be a roundabout way of saying that Paul went on a missionary trip to Spain after his (initial) imprisonment in Rome before a second imprisonment and his execution. Indeed, in Romans 15:24, Paul does overtly state his intent to travel to Spain. Acts certainly doesn’t mention any such voyage, but its absence from Acts certainly doesn’t preclude its occurrence, particularly when we take into account that Acts and 1 Clement belong to the same period of church history, Acts having been produced in the 70s or 80s, and 1 Clement in the 90s. When we consider that Luke was very likely nearing the very end of the scroll he was writing on at the end of Acts, it would be quite understandable if he omitted later details of what happened after Paul’s arrival in Rome (particularly if he’d intended to write a third volume on an additional scroll, but never got the chance—we just don’t know). Lastly, this quotation demonstrates that Clement doesn’t believe that Peter and Paul ceased to exist after their deaths until the future resurrection—he mentions that they “went to the holy place.” He also believed in the resurrection of the body, but he does also demonstrate a belief in an intermediate state of continued existence between bodily death and final resurrection, a “place of glory.” It is not necessarily wrong to call this place heaven—it’s important, but it’s not the end of the world.) B) Chapter 32.3-33.1, On Justification
“(32.3) All, therefore, were glorified and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous actions which they did, but through his will. (32.4) And so we, having been called through his will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we have done in holiness of heart, but through faith, by which the almighty God has justified all who have existed from the beginning; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. (33.1) What then shall we do, brothers? Shall we idly abstain from doing good, and forsake love? May the Master never allow this to happen, at least to us; but let us hasten with earnestness and zeal to accomplish every good work.”
(This quotation largely speaks for itself, but it is worth noting that it largely is set within a salvation-historical context relating to God’s covenant with Abraham, which he sets up in chapter 31 and continues in the opening verses of 32, in a manner paralleling the argument of Galatians 3. Clement displays a vast knowledge of the Old Testament as well as the books of the New Testament—part of why this work is dated to around the same time that John was written is the absence of references to that Gospels, as the Synoptic tradition is richly interwoven throughout the letter.) C) Chapter 44, On Bishops and Presbyters
“(1) Our apostles likewise knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife over the bishop's office. (2) For this reason, therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the officials mentioned earlier and after. wards they gave the offices a permanent character, to that is, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry. (3) Those, therefore, who were appointed by them or, later on, by other reputable men with the consent of the whole church, and who have ministered to the flock of Christ blamelessly, humbly, peaceably, and unselfishly, and for a long time have been well spoken of by all—these men we consider to be unjustly removed from their ministry. (4) For it will be no small sin for us, if we depose from the bishop's office those who have offered the gifts blamelessly and in holiness. (5) Blessed are those presbyters who have gone on ahead, who took their departure at a mature and fruitful age, for they need no longer fear that someone might remove them from their established place. (6) For we see that you have removed certain people, their good conduct notwithstanding, from the ministry which had been held in honor by them blamelessly.
(There’s a lot going on in the Greek here with the terms used, in addition to overall ecclesiology. Note that the context of 1 Clement is that the Corinthian church had overthrown its bishops/presbyters, and the entire letter is an appeal by Clement for the Corinthians to restore their bishops/presbyters to their rightful office. When he writes, “Those, therefore, who were appointed by them or, later on, by other reputable men with the consent of the whole church,” it doesn’t appear that this indicates that he’s referring to early congregationalism, because if that were so, it would not have been wrong for them to have expelled their bishops/presbyters—that would have been within their authority. The “consent of the whole church” appears to refer to the approval of the leadership of the whole church to consent to or veto the appointment of new bishops/presbyters. Note, also, the lack of distinction between bishop and presbyter/priest.)

Where can you Access Clement's Writings?

"His Epistle of the Romans to the Corinthians, written about the same time as the Gospel of John, is his only authentic surviving work. It is also called 1 Clement to distinguish it from 2 Clement, a work attributed to Clement by some in the early church, but which Eusebius plainly states was not actually written by Clement (it is worth noting that Origen notes traditions attributing Hebrews to either Clement or Luke; both of these are likely untrue, given the stylistic differences. It is our earliest source attesting that both Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome, and also the earliest source attesting that the apostles established some sort of official succession from them. Interestingly, he appears to equivocate between bishops and priests, a point seized upon in the German Reformation, which noted the same equivocation of terms in Acts 20 and Titus 1, and similar phenomena in 1 Peter 5 and Philippians 1 and leading to the thesis that the establishment of mono-episcopacy was a peaceful/non-controversial development of very early 2nd century Christianity (as evidenced in the letters of Ignatius ~15 years later). I.e., the reason the early lists of the bishops of Rome disagree over whether Clement was the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th such bishop may well be because three men were all simultaneously priest-bishops in Rome at the same time, and thus only in retrospect, once mono-episcopacy had established itself, would the need to work out a precise order of the single officeholders arise, leading to confused lists."

Friday, November 17, 2023

Hosting as a Homebodied Introvert

Given all the posts lately about reading, philosophy, and theology/church time, you may be wondering if I ever interact with people at home . . . the answer is yes! Hospitality is close to my heart, in part due to the exhortation to entertain "strangers" in Hebrews 13:2. How do these aspects of life blend?

Hosting as a Christian

For the Christian, hospitality may look a little bit different than it might for the non-Christian. A key difference comes in "whom do you host?" I'm referring to personal hospitality (in one's personal dwelling) as opposed to, say, a hotel owner. Rosaria Butterfield has written in several places about the ins, outs, and challenges of Christians being obedient to their calling to be hospitable.
  • What's physically involved: an open home, a larger food/electric budget, and a unified church, an ordinary Christian life (versus "entertainment"), daily time especially when you don't "have" time
  • Who does it: all Christians
  • Who receives it: Christians and non-Christians, whoever enters our homes
  • Whom it benefits: everyone participating!
I will admit that fact-finding for this section of the post was more surprising and challenging for me than I anticipated, as perhaps the following sections will show.

Hosting as an Introvert

One thing I learned after Husband and I started dating was that there are multiple types of introverts.
  • Social - like small groups, enjoyable but draining
  • Thinking - slow-paced, imaginatively self-reflective
  • Restrained - slow-starting, slow-relaxing, fact-finding
  • Anxious - very self-conscious around strangers
  • Low-Stimulation - need to limit outside stimuli for overwhelm
As a couple, Husband and I form a mix of social and anxious introversion, which leads to some tension when discussing planned hospitality. I'm also more of the planner of us two, while desiring to be more spontaneous. When we host, this means several things: I'm the one doing the inviting and scheduling (generally); I'm the one responsible for changing decorations so I don't do that very much; and potluck-style simple dishes are the way to go!

Here's how our eating area looks this season:

Glimpses: Seasonal, Non-Instagram Hosting

In an ideal world, here's what I aspire to when providing hospitality. In all scenarios, the house is clean enough at least in toilets, sinks, and floors; and piles on seating and table areas are minimal.


This season is the time for walks in waterproof shoes, garden meandering, and occasional use of the fireplace. Longer days, and especially Daylight Savings Time, make me more optimistic and thus less hermit-like. It's not quite warm enough to eat outside, but couch meals inside are comfortable. Lightly scented candles are my go-to because so many flowers are poisonous to our cats. Library tours of our Christianly-organized library (HT: Autumn Kern of Common Mom) are a staple!


Dinner on the deck, preceded or followed by a board game and a library tour, uses many of the lovely features of our house and places guests in a comfortable environment where conversation flows. Our backyard is kempt but not manicured; in Zone 5b there grow an abundance of bee balm, sweet peas, and catnip. Things smell nice, there are (usually) few to no mosquitoes, and the evening sunlight puts everyone in a good mood.


Before the time change, at least, dinner can usually still be outside if one plans and layers properly. Otherwise, staples of our hospitality are the fireplace with rug in front, incandescent lamps, and ample comfortable seating with blankets and usually-cuddly cats. Particularly in fall, a library tour with a segue into theological and/or philosophical discussion facilitated by Husband is a staple of hosting to benefit all involved.


Due to the limited daylight, winter hosting is almost identical to fall hosting except for scheduling things during the day if I can. In our area, we get anywhere from 6"-6' of snow and ice over the course of winter. I add hot tea and coffee more often, and if mom supplies us with cookies from her greater baking time, some German-style Christmas cookies.

Did you get any new ideas for your hospitality practice?

Friday, November 10, 2023

Birth, Death, and Life In Between

The changing of seasons, the church year, and Husband's current group book study have me thinking about the passage of time as it relates to people's earthly lives. This week, I'd like to explore a few of those concepts more closely. (And, on November 8, please wish the late Conrad Hal Waddington a happy birthday commemoration--he is the unintentional namesake for this blog!)

Birth and New Birth

In the Christian church and elsewhere, birthdays of significant people are celebrated or at least remembered annually. On November 10, many denominations remember Martin Luther’a birthday.

Martin Luther

The father of the Reformation, Luther spent most of his life in his native Germany. Important literary sources for his reinterpretation of the story of Scripture, particularly his understanding of how one is justified (courtroom sense) before God, were Galatians and medieval mystics. At least one recent commentator--I forget who--opined that if Luther had started with Ephesians and not Galatians, the Reformation would have looked much different. Check out New Perspective on Paul (NPP) scholars for more details.

New Birth

Of comparable or greater significance to a Christian’s birthday is his or her baptismal remembrance. No matter your stance on what happens through baptism, if you are baptized, you’re aware that it’s important and that something did happen. 

In my understanding, there is consensus in Scripture and the Church fathers (first generations of Christians) on the following points:

  • Baptism is normally associated with the Holy Spirit's creation of faith in the baptized individual; a verbal profession of the learned faith may occur at the same time or at a later time as one is discipled over a lifetime in the faith
  • Baptism in the triune God's name means that the focus is on the authority of the One commanding it (i.e., humans "are baptized" and the work is God's through the hands of others)
  • Baptism-faith is the boundary marker to the new covenant, that replaces circumcision as bringing one into the family of God
  • Infants should be baptized as soon as possible for the above reasons (the fact that infant baptism is almost never mentioned in Scripture and other writings most likely means that it wasn't a controversial issue that needed to be addressed at the time)

Life Before Death

Lately, I've been reading enough theological/philosophical books to make myself automatically think of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life when this topic comes up. A few common questions that may come up for the thinking reader (Christian or non-Christian), that are somewhat easily answered as long as one is not > 80% skeptical, include

  • Why were the four canonical Gospel accounts written?
    • To recall for early-generation Christians the key events (from 4 perspectives) of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. (John's gospel has typically been held to have been written later than the others, but still within well under 75 years from the time of Jesus' crucifixion.)
  • Why were the four canonical Gospel accounts, but not others, included in the Scriptures?
  • Are the Gospel accunts reliable/preserved in essentially the same form as when the original manuscripts were written?
    • Yes, Bart Ehrman's nitpicking notwithstanding.
  • Why are there differences in the Gospel accounts? Scholar Michael Licona has written a book with essentially this title, with a (predictably) negative review from an Evangelical perspective.
    • Ancient biography and historiography had different "rules" than what post-Enlightenment people would expect today in terms of precision and other factors.

What does that mean for your perspective on the Gospels or the rest of the Scriptures? Your stance on apologetics? Your life on earth related to your perspective on Jesus Christ?

Death and Life After

When a Christian dies, the historical/orthodox teaching is that the body rests while the soul goes to be in paradise/heaven with Christ immediately. The Greek word chosen by New Testament writers to express "paradise" connotes a temporary resting place ("mansions" or "rooms" of John 14:2 among others). So, yes, Christians do go to heaven (not a physical place, but more like a dimension that touches our known dimensions) when they die. However, they don't stay there forever (next section)!

One other note on death is that, like birth dates, death dates of various people are also commemorated or celebrated in some way. Martin Luther's death day is February 18. From what I could find, the largest-scale example of this is Day of the Dead (pagan in origin). In the Anglican tradition, the weekly prayers include a petition about the saints who have died in the faith:

We remember before you all your servants who have departed this life in your faith and fear, [especially _____________,] that your will for them may be fulfilled; and we ask you to give us grace to follow the good examples of [N., and] all your saints, that we may share with them in your heavenly kingdom. 

Life After Life After Death

For the Christian, death--and heaven--are not the end! We await the bodily resurrection once God has determined that the new heavens and new earth are fully ready. This is why we steward this creation (people, environment) and give effort and attention toward our vocations in the present.

Friday, November 3, 2023

All Saints' Writings

The Renaissance Biologist is a reader's blog. November 1 is the commemoration of All Saints. So . . . what should you read to learn about saints?

Find Out What a Saint Is

All Saints' Day has been celebrated since at least the 8th century on its present date, but a variation commemorating martyrs at a different time of year since at least the 4th century. As a Christian practice, it is therefore fairly old, not quite to the first few generations of Christians, but once there formed a critical mass of those who had died in the faith, there was a need to regularly remember them.

What does Scripture say?

In the Old Testament, several references (21 in the English Standard Version) contain a Hebrew word or term translated "saint" - most of which occur in Psalms and Daniel. A quick spot check on a few of these indicates the following:

  • Psalm 16:3 - Strong's 6918 "sacred, holy, Holy One, saint, set apart"
  • Psalm 37:28 - Strong's 2623 "faithful (ones)" among other senses
  • Daniel 7:18 - Strong's 6922 "angels, saints" (sense 2)
  • Daniel 8:24 - Strong's 6918
The sense shared among these terms is that a "saint" is someone "holy" or dedicated/set apart for a particular purpose. Old Testament scholar John Walton goes more deeply into this concept as it relates to the covenant God established with Israel.

In the New Testament, many more references (link above, 61 in ESV) contain a Greek term translated "saint" - most of which are in Revelation, Romans, and the longer pastoral epistles. A peek at a few of them indicates the following:
  • Romans 8:27 - Strong's 40 "set apart by (or for) God, holy, sacred"
  • 1 Corinthians 6:2 - Strong's 40
  • Ephesians 3:8 - Strong's 40
  • Revelation 8:3 - Strong's 40

What do Christians Say?

To keep the scope of this post narrow, I will focus on currently held beliefs of major Christian denominations in the US about sainthood. A recently written guide to denominations lists 17 distinct families, but I will further collapse those by going a step or two back in their family trees.

  • Roman Catholic/Orthodox (lumped together by historical proximity): saints are believers and only Jesus can address the Father on our behalf (these teachings have evolved significantly over time); all Christians are saints, but some by performing documented miracles or living entirely in line with orthodox teaching may be canonized. As the Orthodox link says:
    • "We glorify those whom God Himself has glorified, seeing in their lives true love for God and their neighbors. The Church merely recognizes that such a person has cooperated with God’s grace to the extent that his or her holiness is beyond doubt."
  • Anglican/Episcopal (including Methodist and Pentecostal/Holiness): any faithful Christian; some saints may be canonized or recognized more formally by the church as a whole.
  • Baptist (including Adventist, Congregationalist, and Evangelical due to shared beliefs): any Christian who has consciously decided to follow Jesus (which excludes very young children).
  • Anabaptist (including Mennonite): Zwingli is given as an example of an iconoclast, which also involved forbidding the veneration of saints.
  • Reformed (including Presbyterian and Calvinist): Christians who are "preserved" in the faith throughout their lives.
  • Lutheran: all Christians, especially focusing on those who have proclaimed Christ Jesus more thoroughly by their lives, works, and words.
For a perspective of a relatively famous Brit on some errant practices related to All Saints' Day, I would commend you to N. T. Wright's For All the Saints?, a quick read explaining heaven vs the new creation with bodily resurrection, and the truer/broader definition of a saint. Bottom line: Don't celebrate All Souls' Day (Nov. 2)!

Read Primary Sources

Primary sources are directly linked to the experience being described, usually by being written by eyewitnesses or those otherwise immediately present.

What Did Saints Write?

For the purposes of this post, I’m focusing on New Testament-era saints. The records we have from various Christians are (surprisingly to some) robust in quantity and quality. 

Ancient and Modern Autobiography

Modern autobiography, by definition, must be written while its subject is still alive. Ancient biography, while perhaps not as well preserved, is subject to the same limitation. I asked Husband for examples of this, and the only autobiography in his list was that of the Jewish historian Josephus. 

Teaching and Sermons

Perhaps the most obvious examples of saints’ teaching are found in the New Testament epistles. Sermons included (such as Paul’s address on Mars Hill) are, in ancient biography fashion, summarized. 

However, more complete sermons are written in other places. The writings of the Apostolic Fathers are an excellent place to start. From there, the Ante- and Post-Nicene Fathers form a corpus of slightly later (4th century AD) writings. 

Read Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are written by non-experiencers of the event in question. Sometimes writers are contemporaneous, sometimes not. While these sources lose the immediacy of the events and experiences being described, a large benefit is hindsight lent by a different, later perspective. 

Ancient and Modern Biography

As a youngster, I had biographies of modern-day Christians (saints) as part of the family library available to me. In the North American tradition, these included Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, and others. You can probably find several more on your home shelves!

What about ancient biography? Here are Husband’s recommendations on biography and books about how biography worked in in the early New Testament era:
  • Most general: C. W. Fornara's The Nature of History in Ancient Greece and Rome
  • NT: R. Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony
  • NT: M. Licona's Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn From Ancient Biography
  • NT: C. Keener's Christobiography: Memory, History, and the Reliability of the Gospels
  • Indirect: N. T. Wright's The New Testament and the People of God (methodological/genre-related questions, not referencing genre per se)
  • Greco-Roman biographies:
    • Plutarch's Parallel Lives
    • Diogenes Laertius's Lives of Eminent Philosophers
  • NT biographies: don’t forget about the 4 canonical Gospel accounts

Other Source Types

For this post’s purposes, the main type of secondary source about saints is historiography. Per Husband, "Since Greco-Roman biography was so tightly related to Greco-Roman historiography, ancient historiographies would also be recommended, especially
  • Herodotus's The Histories
  • Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War
  • Xenophon's Hellenica, Anabasis, and Apology of Socrates
  • Plato's Apology
  • Polybius's The Histories
  • Lucy's From the Founding of the City (excerpts)
  • Tacitus's Annals, Histories, and Agricola
  • Suetonius's The Twelve Caesars
Sources that best combine historiography and biography include Greek sources (5 major accounts of Alexander the Great's life/campaigns by Arrian, Diodorus Siculus, Quintus Curtius Rufus, Marcus Junianus Justinus Frontinus (Justin-not-Justin-Martyr), and Plutarch (already mentioned--parallel life was Julius Caesar). They also include Jewish historiography + biography:
  • 1-4 Maccabees
  • Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews and The Jewish War
  • Philo of Alexandria's Life of Moses
Hymns are another excellent source of information. As I pointed out last week, hymns and songs teach by their poetry, in rough proportion to how deeply one considers the words. “For All the Saints” (affectionately abbreviated FATS by the cantor who taught it to me) is a prime example. Check out stanza 3:

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Retain the Material

Two strategies I recommend to my students and myself to increase long-term retention of material are (1) taking notes after reading rather than during it (here are 2 short videos of less than 3 minutes each supporting this strategy with expert opinion) and (2) testing yourself with the book/notes closed.

Happy reading!