Yesterday, the Revised Common Lectionary gave us texts about Mary. Even those who don’t preach from the lectionary may have preached on the classic, seasonal stories of Mary’s pregnancy; hopefully, some of us have pondered the upside-down values of the Magnificant. I would guess that some of our BookNotes readers sung or listened to Mary Did You Know, a song that I always find very moving.
To supplement your Christmas study, and to celebrate a renewed interest in Mary coming from evangelicals—surely a good sign—I thought I’d announce three new books that have released this season on the virgin. That they all have very lovely covers is nice, too. Perhaps just seeing them will bless you.
The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christains Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus (Paraclete Press; $19.95) is the latest by one of the fastest rising stars in New Testament scholarship these days, Scot McKnight. This nice hardcover was published by the same house that gave us The Jesus Creed, a much-discussed McKnight book. This well-written volume has very great endorsements by Ben Witherington, Lynne Hybels, Nancy Ortberg, among others. H&M friend Joseph Modica (Chaplain at Eastern University) cheerfully says, “I’ll never be able to look at that powder blue Mary figurine in the Christmas nativity scene the same way again.”
Strange Heaven: The Virgin Mary as Woman, Mother, Disciple and Advocate Jon M. Sweeney (Paraclete) $23.95 Sweeney is another author to watch, one who can craft fine prose and who has given us some very nice books in the past few years. Sweeney’s own spiritual memoir (Born Again and Again) was one of our favorites, and he has gone on to do two fine books on Francis and another on the recent trend of Protestants to be interested in Roman Catholic saints.) Strange Heaven invites us to meditate on the Divine feminine, and reminds us that the best devotional literature is often mysterious and deep. Very interesting.
Mary for Evangelicals: Toward an Understanding of the Mother of Our Lord Tim Perry (IVP) $24.00 Here is a serious book, perhaps the most thorough study of Mary from a Protestant persepctive that I know of. With remarkable endorsements by scholars as diverse as Marva Dawn and Chris Hall, Beverly Roberts Gaventa and Frederica Mathewes-Green, this is a broad and studious work. The book is divided into three substantial sections, Mary in Holy Scripture, Mary in the History of Christian Thought and Toward an Evangelical Mariology. What a spectacular book this is!
The back cover of Sweeney’s book declares that “The virgin Mary ignites the human imagination more than any other woman in history.” I am not sure if that is so, but I can’t think of a comparable woman. And it makes sense; the Biblical promise is that all generations will call her blessed. Perhaps it would be wise to consider a study of her this year. These books would surely be a good place to start.