Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Five Women of the English Reformation

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Five Women of the English Reformation

Article excerpt

Five Women of the English Reformation. By Paul F. M. Zahl. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001. viii + 120pp. $18.00 (cloth).

This is not a scholarly book, nor a contribution to the field of women's studies, nor a disciplined piece of theological analysis. It is popular history and should be so evaluated, for this genre often provides a useful introduction to a period, as well as an appetizing first course to more substantial repasts.

Zahl has provided a chatty, enthusiastic set of profiles of well-born, educated Tudor women who shared considerable zeal for the emerging reformed faith in sixteenth-century England: Anne Boleyn, Anne Askew, Katharine Parr, Jane Grey, and Catherine Willoughby.

Each woman is worthy of in-depth historical study. In fact two, Askew and Parr, have been the subjects of recent critical studies. Zahl follows the repeated format of touching upon "her life in brief," "her theology," "the texts," and "interpretation." Most effective are Zahl's descriptions of primary texts by, or occasionally about, each woman. Selections from these texts are also presented in appendices. Of some value are the authors reflections on each woman's theology: the simple fact of taking their theological words seriously mirrors this very wordy reformation, a time when assertions about God were alike treasured, scrutinized, and judged. Theology was a matter of life and death for women and men of many estates, not just the educated and well born. To call these women "lay theologians" (p. 5) is a reflection on our more restricted times, and not theirs. …

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