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Posted April 22, 2004

Book: Educating People of Faith: Exploring the history of Jewish and Christian Communities
Edited by: John Van Engen
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp.353

An excerpt from the Jacket:

A much-needed addition to the emerging literature on the formative power of religious practices, “Educating People of Faith creates a vivid portrait of the lived practices that shaped the faith of Jews and Christians in synagogues and churches from antiquity to the seventeenth century.

This significant book is the work of Jewish, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant scholars who wished to discover and describe how Jews and Christians through history have been formed in religious ways of thinking and acting. Rather than focusing solely on either intellectual or social life, the authors all use the concept of “practices” as they attend to the embodied, contextual character of religious figures, community life, and traditional practices such as preaching, sacraments, and catechesis are colorful, detailed, and revealing. The authors are also careful to cover the nature of religious education across all social levels, from the textual formation of highly literate rabbis and monks engaged in Scripture study to the local formation of illiterate medieval Christians for whom the veneration of saints’ shrines, street performances of religious drama, an public preaching by wandering preachers were profoundly formative.

Educating People of Faith will benefit scholars and teachers desiring a fuller perspective on how lived practices have historically formed people in religious faith. It will also be useful to practical theologians and pastors wh wish to make the resources of the past available to practitioners in the present.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Judaism’s greatest contribution to Christianity’s understanding of moral and spiritual formation was not institutional but theological. The Jewish Bible recorded the creation of human beings in the image of God. For Jews, the end of human life was set by its beginning. Because we are made in God’s image, the only telos appropriate for human beings is fellowship with God. Only in loving and serving God will we find fulfillment, that supreme good in which good is brought to perfection. Christian themes such as imitatio Dei or “holiness” have their origins in Judaism. Citing Leviticus 19, “You shall be holy for I am holy,” an ancient rabbi said: “Ye shall be holy, and why? Because I am holy, for I have attached you to me, as it is said, ‘For as the girdle cleaves to the loins of a man, so I have caused the whole house of Israel to cleave to me.” From Jewish tradition Christians learned that human beings were called to be “like God,” to “cleave to God,” to walk in God’s ways, to imitate the divine qualities of mercy and compassion.

Table of Contents:

Early Synagogue and Church

Religious formation in ancient Judaism
Robert Goldenberg

Christian formation in the early church
Robert Louis Wilken

Simplifying Augustine
John C. Cavadini

Monastic formation and Christian practice: food in the desert
Blake Leyerle

Faith formation in Byzantium
Stanley Samuel Harakas

Community and education in premodern Judaism
Michael A. Signer

Practice beyond the confines of the medieval parish
John Van Engen

Orality, textuality, and revelation as modes of education and formation in Jewish mystical circles of high middle ages
Elliot R. Wolfson

The thirteenth-century English parish
Joseph Goering

The cult of the Virgin Mary and technologies of Christian formation in the later middle ages
Anne L. Clark

The Reformation Era

Luther and formation in faith
David C. Steinmetz

Zwingli and reformed practice
Lee Palmer Wandel

Catechesis in Calvin’s Geneva
Robert M Kingdon

Ritual and faith formation in early modern Catholic Europe
Philip M. Soergel

Spiritual direction as Christian pedagogy
Lawrence S. Cunningham