The Miracle of Jesui an Introduction by Franz Mussner (Eceleeia Press 10s)
There are critics prepared to argue that Jesus worked no miracles at all. Miracles are allegedly "built in" by evangelists to convey what the Lord had come to mean to them. The Jesus-of-Eli story had a flair for meaning things to people though the way he did it was not what they reported.
This author (professor at Regensburg University) contends that "without the miracles of Jesus there is no Christ." Test this simply--strike out from your Gospel every miracle, and every reference in our Lord's teaching to his "signs"; not .much remains.
At the same time, criticism, not necessarily destructive, reminds us that each evangelist's account is coloured 'by his individual approach. There are differences that, without sound critique, looks 'like mere discrepancies, but with it they open themselves to understanding in depth.
This slight book, though significant and useful, is in places woolly and involved, perhaps because translated from German.
The Bible in History ed. by J. Rhymer Vol 5 Solomon the Magnificent by H. Gaubert (Dal-ton Longman & Todd 28s)
One in a series of twelve, this volume deals with the emergence of Isreal as a minipower of the tenth century BC, its trade, politics, culture, and above all the transformation of its tent-dwelling of a God of Nomads into a glorious temple lined with gold, with a sanctuary brooded over by sixteen foot-high cherubim. Solomon is a genius who outreaches himself; h istory recalled wisdom and all that glory, but his was a reign of excesses, followed by a "series of great disasters which were the fatal consequences of Solomon's .misitakes."
Like previous volumes, this is well illustrated and very readable.
Desert Pilgrimage a journey into Christian Egypt Iby James Wellard Hutchinson 45s)
Long since I was thrilled by the stories of Desert Fathers (and Mothers) of early centuries. Calling recently on the Maronite Patriarchal Vicar of
Alexandria, I was assured that at Wadi Natrun, one of the most famous primitive monastic centres, there still are monks. So I opened this book With joyful anticipation.
But I was rather disappointed. Mr. Wellard treats us to a first-hand account of diversions at Wadi Natrun where, in company with Fathers who live in a "snug suite of rooms," he stood on the monastery ramparts at night to hear prayer rising from remote cells and gaze at the cliffs where Abuna AM elMasih stood under the moon with hands raised in prayer. That was good, but the rest of the reportage is thin.
There are, however, pages of • travellers' tales, and amusing accounts of Victorian tourists somehow lying down on camels, swigging brandy and claret, and dropping Tauchnitz novels in the sand when read, where maybe someone will one day recover them inextricably mixed up with the pages of lost Gospels.
It is hard to see why a writer on deserts devotes so much space to invective against the Pope of Rome and his pomps, losing himself in sandstorms of theology. To his credit, however, in his real sympathy for both desert spirituality and its most destitute representatives.
Monasteries by R. I. Unstead (Black 14s}
This is a revised edition of one of Black's Junior Reference Books, with a fairly simple text, photographs, illustrations from manuscripts, plans and line drawings.
In this kind of young persons' book, illustrations are likely to make more impact than text. So, having distinguished so clearly between monks and friars (friars are not covered in detail at all) it is odd that the cover illustration should be one in drab colour of a row of unprepossessing senile friars, and the line artist has made most of his "monks" friars of that ilk.
The text neglects the glorious history of primitive British monasticism (nine sentences) because this is our bad tradition. For the rest, while fairly accurate, it loses the chance of making the subject human and attractive by portraying some of the incisive personalities of monastic history.