Saturday, August 18, 2007

Beginning at Jerusalem

It has been quite a long time since I've done a book review. I've actually already read Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth but I want to read it again before I offer any insights into it. Since then I've also read a few other books but what I want to tell you about is Carl Olsen's Beginning at Jerusalem.

The book is a collection of five lectures the author gave at the Wethersfield Institute of the Homeland Foundation. Each of the lectures was intended as a "capstone" lecture for its respective timeframe, including: Ancient Christianity, Early Medieval, Late or High Medieval, Renaissance to Enlightenment and at the doorstep of the third millennium. Also included are two Appendices from the author's lectures on the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Prayer as Relation and Prayer as Covenant Drama.

At a modest 209 pages it is a multi-sitting book for most of us but far from overwhelming. There are times when it is obvious you are reading from a lecture but the author in general has done a good job of minimizing any distraction this might cause. The pace is brisk without running past any significant details and further discussion pieces are referred to in the footnotes.

I would heartily recommend this book if only for the footnotes alone. The collection of books, lectures, papers and articles could keep one busy for a lifetime it would seem. While the author does have a habit of referring to other works of his quite heavily in the footnotes I don't find it particularly problematic as they are usually used for "further discussion" rather than as providing an evidentiary basis for a claim. Aside from some (to be expected in an academic setting) argumentative comments in a couple of the footnotes they were a positive trove of information. If I have that much to say about the footnotes you can imagine how much I enjoyed the entirety of the book combining history, ecclesiology, theology, christology, liturgy and more it was as if the book was written with my interests in mind.