Rolfing Unshelved

Books, news, and events from TIU's Rolfing Library

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Book Review: Confronting the Holes in Holy Week

A book on Holy Week written by a physicist? Not appealing at first blush. But upon a thorough perusal, Colin J. Humphreys’ The Mystery of the Last Supper (Cambridge, 2011) proves an absolute gem. You know the saying about books and their covers.

Giotto’s “The Arrest of Christ” (c.1306)

Noted New Testament scholar I. Howard Marshall declares in his foreword that this book is a tour de force. That is high praise, especially considering Humphreys’ biblical research is something he does in his free time — alongside his day job as a top-flight Cambridge materials scientist, for which work he was recently knighted.

Humphreys’ aim in The Mystery of the Last Supper is to present a coherent account of the chronology of Holy Week. Anyone who has read the accounts in the Gospels of Jesus’ last days before death knows that one is likely to run into all manner of apparent contradictions and chronological confusions in the quest to reconstruct just how the week must have looked.

Humphreys points out four central problems in this quest:

1) Did anything happen on Holy Wednesday?
2) Was the last supper a Passover meal?
3) How did all the events purported to have happened between the evening supper and the crucifixion the next morning happen within that short span of time?
4) Did the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus flout Jewish legal rules against capital trials being held at night?

These are crucial questions, both as matters of history (what really happened?) and of faith (are the Gospels trustworthy?).

Humphreys deals with these questions intelligently and straightforwardly. The result is a fascinating, well-researched, imaginative bit of scholarship. As it explores Jewish calendar systems and the like, the book comes out valiantly on the side of the reliability of the Gospels.

Wondering what happened on each day of Holy Week? Then read Humphreys. During the month of March, Rolfing’s copy of The Mystery of the Last Supper can be found in the Holy Week display near the library entrance.



Book Display: The Qur’an in Light of the Gospel

Image of Qur'anIn the summer of 2010 I spent a few weeks in Indonesia. I went with friends who were fellow Christians and we met up with a group of Muslim students and walked across the island of Java together. We spent ten days with our new friends, getting to know them, trying to learn Indonesian, enjoying the beautiful island, and trying not to look like ignorant Americans.

As we got to know each other better, the juxtaposition of our faiths became very clear. In some ways, our faiths seemed quite similar. We both believed in a higher being and we shared many of the same stories of the patriarchs of our faiths. We were all trying to live morally upright lives and sought the will of our creator in our decisions. We both prayed daily and looked to our scriptures for insight. There were moments when our similarities seemed to outweigh our differences.

At the same time, I found myself curious about what made my faith different from their faith. For me, the question came down to this: Are we worshiping the same God?

Theologian Miroslav Volf argues for harmony between Muslims and Christians in his book Allah: A Christian Response. Check out his interview with Christianity Today.

Volf joins with fellow theologians and religious leaders in the book Do We Worship the Same God? to provide a resource outlining different views of this difficult question.

In the month of March, Rolfing is featuring a display entitled “The Qur’an in Light of the Gospel,” highlighting materials about the differences and similarities between Islam and Christianity. The display highlights topics covered in the modular class by the same title held March 11-19.

Check out the books mentioned above on our display as well as these other resources on the same topic:

Understanding Christian-Muslim Relations   Christian View of Islam   Allah: A Christian Response   Christian Doctrines in Islamic Theology   Jesus and Muhammad

We want to hear your thoughts on this subject.  Please comment and share some insights!

What has been your experience with the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity?

How can we use our similarities to engage with our Muslim friends?

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Guest Post: Biblical Studies Tools

Do you have a paper to write for a biblical studies (Old or New Testament) class? Here are five sources that are often overlooked but can be very helpful.

bibtools11) Theological dictionaries. These dictionaries are outstanding sources of information. They contain, among other things, helpful introductions to the books of the Bible and topics surrounding their study. Equally important, however, are the bibliographies at the end of each article which can point you to resources for further study. Some of my favorites: The IVP Dictionaries on the various segments of the canon, Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible and The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis.

2) Bibliographies in commentaries. In commentaries, authors will generally do more than offer their treatments of a passage; they will often leave you their trails of research in the form of bibliographies. Authors tend to use bibliographies to list sources that are worthwhile in doing further research, even if the author would not endorse the points of view in those sources. (By the way, if a commentary does not have a good bibliography you probably should not use it in your paper!

bibtools23) Historical theology sources. Modern advances in biblical studies have given seminary students and pastors wonderful tools to use in studying the Old and New Testaments. But it is tragic when modern interpreters forget that Christians have been reading Scripture for over two thousand years! The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Old Testament and New Testament volumes) and The Reformation Commentary on Scripture are especially helpful in showing you the primary sources where you can explore how some of the brightest thinkers in Church history have understood Scripture.

4) Journals. Students tend to bury themselves in mounds of commentaries when doing exegetical work. As great as commentaries are, they can become outdated very quickly. Journals, on the other hand, are helpful in keeping you up-to-date with the most recent research. The ATLA database (available through the Rolfing homepage) can help you find articles on your topic or passage, many of which can be downloaded to your computer for free. What’s even better—the reference staff would be happy to help you learn to use the database!

bibtools35) Commentary surveys. Students occasionally approach us at the reference desk needing help finding good commentaries on a particular book. My first course of action is usually to recommend to them the commentary surveys by Tremper Longman III (Old Testament) and Trinity’s very own D. A. Carson (New Testament). These surveys give concise evaluations of the major commentaries on a given book of the Bible and tell you which commentaries are likely to be the most helpful (and which ones you should probably leave on the shelf!). You can find these surveys in print in the main and reference collections and they’re available in e-book format. The reference desk at the library also has copies that you can consult.

Guest blogger Lance Higginbotham is available at the reference desk to help you with your library needs during the following times: Mondays 6-9; Wednesdays 1-3, 6-9; Thursdays 6-9 and Fridays 11-1. Contact him at

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What’s New: Books on Pope Benedict XVI and the Papacy

The Pope has retired, the College of Cardinals are in conclave, and Catholics around the world are waiting anxiously to see a puff of white smoke billow from the chimney affixed to the Sistine Chapel’s roof. In response to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement, we’ve freshened up our history of the papacy collection with some recent publications by — and about — the now-retired Pope.

Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week book cover

Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week book cover

We’ve completed our set of Pope Benedict’s three-part series on Jesus of Nazareth: we added The Infancy Narratives (Image, 2012) and Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Ignatius Press, 2011). Benedict, ever the scholar and theologian, offers here his commentary and insight on the events of the Gospels. The Holy Week volume is an especially compelling read this time of year, and Benedict notes its significance in his foreword: “…only in this second volume do we encounter the decisive sayings and events of Jesus’ life… [I have tried] to consider only the essential words and deeds of Jesus — guided by the hermeneutic of faith, but at the same time adopting a responsible attitude toward historical reason” (p. xvii). These books are so new to the library that we’re still processing them — please ask at the circulation desk if you can’t find them on the shelf!

My Brother, the Pope (Ignatius Press, 2011) is a memoir by Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict. Eighty-nine-year-old Msgr. Ratzinger is a Catholic priest, organist, and emeritus conductor of the famous Regensburger Domspatzen, Regensburg’s cathedral choir. In the memoir, he recounts childhood memories of his brother and narrates their shared experiences growing up in the Catholic Church and then answering the call to become priests. In fact, the brothers entered the seminary together and were ordained priests on the same day in 1951. The book spans over eighty years of the brothers’ lives: Msgr. Ratzinger’s memories of the day his little brother was born, his family’s anti-Nazi sentiments, his experiences fighting in World War II, the election of his brother as Pope in 2005, and beyond. The story is ultimately one of two brothers answering the call to serve the Lord, despite the trials and tribulations of National Socialism and war. Pick up My Brother, the Pope to discover the story of the Ratzinger brothers, their childhood in Catholic Bavaria, and their enduring friendship.

Medieval portrait of Celestine V by Niccolò di Tommaso

Medieval portrait of Celestine V by Niccolò di Tommaso

Finally, we’ve acquired Jon M. Sweeney’s The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation (Image, 2012). This book tells the story of Peter Morrone, the hermit-monk-saint who was elected to the papacy on July 5, 1294 and resigned only fifteen weeks later, on December 13 of the same year. Sweeney recounts the mysteries surrounding the pontificate of Peter, who took the name Celestine V, and the suspicious actions of his kniving successor, Boniface VIII. Celestine re-entered the spotlight after Benedict’s surprising announcement last month: newspapers and pundits immediately drew a connection between the 21st-century Pope and his 13th-century predecessor. In fact, many news sources pointed out that Benedict reverently laid his pallium (a Y-shaped ecclesiastical vestment worn over the chasuble) on Celestine’s tomb during a visit to L’Aquila in 2009. Want to learn more about this medieval pope and discover why Dante banished him to the antechamber of Hell in The Inferno? Check out The Pope Who Quit.