Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Charisma and Religious Authority: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Preaching, 1200-1500

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Charisma and Religious Authority: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Preaching, 1200-1500

Article excerpt

Charisma and Religious Authority: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Preaching, 1200-1500. Edited by Katherine L.Jansen and Miri Rubin. [Europa Sacra, Vol. 4.] (Turnhout: Brepols. 2010. Pp. xii, 260. euro60,00. ISBN 978-2503-52859-5.)

The product of a 2004 conference, this edition of twelve papers by Miri Rubin and Katherine Jansen seeks to understand the lived reality of religious preaching among the three monotheistic religions, a welcome broadening of our views of medieval preaching. In this undertaking the guiding light is Max Weber and his thoughts on "charisma" and "charismatic leadership." All in all, it proves to be a constructive collaboration.

An instructive introduction lays out the recent scholarship on preaching, as well as clarifies the meaning and use of Weber's terms. The introduction usefully lays out the main issues and does not shy away from the fact that lived preaching is notoriously difficult to reconstruct from the extant sources. After that, the book is divided into five sections that deal with authority, polemics, lived performance, sacred space, and political change in the context of various aspects of preaching in the light of Weber's considerations. The only absence is charisma and miracle working, although several papers do touch on that important aspect of popular preaching. The focus on Weber remains mostly intact throughout the work, a singular achievement in such a disparate group of papers and a testament to editorial care.

The book opens with one of its finest and most useful chapters, one by Linda Jones on medieval Islamic preaching. Jones takes the reader on a trip to an unfamiliar world and explains it thoroughly while offering insight into the natures of both silence and ritual as they relate to charisma. Geert Warnar's paper also is well done and offers a great current appraisal of Meister Eckhart studies; however, the connection to the previous paper is a bit unclear. As the volume moves on, the focus does seem to wander a bit.

Beverly Kienzle's expertise in sermon studies is well known, and her essay is another fine example of her scholarship, this time on Hildegard 's antiheretical preaching. She suggests that Hildegard 's antiheretical message won approval from clerics, even in the midst of papal-imperial schism, and allowed the abbess to continue her work. Marc Saper stein' s look at Jewish preaching is very interesting, especially in regard to the problems of regulating preachers, but seems too broad for the current work in that it looks at issues far beyond 1500. …

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