historical fiction

This tag is associated with 6 posts

“The Mystery of Julia Episcopa” by John I. Rigoli and Diane Cummings- Historical fiction about the early church and women

What if there had been a woman who was a bishop in the earliest parts of Christian history? What would her life have been like? And, if we found out about her now, what would that entail? These are the questions raised by John I. Rigoli and Diane Cummings in their historical fiction novel, The Mystery of Julia Episcopa.

The Mystery of Julia Episcopa has two primary storylines: the first, set in modern times, follows Valentina Vella and Erika Simone, two archaeologists who come across a tantalizing discovery. The second plot follows Julia Episcopa’s life in the first century as she encounters Christianity and navigates her household life.

The story of Valentina and Erika starts off with a bang: the discovery of a document case that had some intentional damage done to remove the evidence that it was from Julia Episcopa, the last syllable indicating the person involved was a woman. It’s found at the Vatican during the tenure of a pope who is working to make reforms to the Roman Catholic church. These scholars have been, in part, charged with seeing whether there is any evidence of women in leadership in the earliest periods of the church. Their discovery launches them on a quest to attempt to find more information about Julia’s life and position in the church. To that end, readers are taken on an archaeological quest enlisting a few other experts as Valentina and Erika work against the clock and church leaders who are less interested in finding women in leadership than in suppressing them. It’s got the makings of a thriller, and at its best, it delivers the goods.

It’s difficult as a non-expert to assess how accurate the representation of Julia’s life is historically. As a reader, however, these sections delving into her life are among the strongest in the novel. Julia is a complex character with a difficult life, despite being born into wealth in the Roman world. No small amount of reflection on household dynamics and paterfamilias is built into this part of the story. But the concepts the author’s put forward in these sections never overtake the character of Julia and her own tale. It’s a spellbinding story, and strong enough to stand upon its own.

These two stories intertwine as Valentina and Erika come closer and closer to discovering the truth of Julia even as they try to hide the massive significance of their discovery from church authorities who are determined to prevent women from having authoritative roles in the church. Forced to conceal their findings for fear of losing funding in retribution due to others not liking the implications of their discovery, they continue on, using whatever resources they can find and their wit to keep the investigation going. It leads to some surprising discoveries.

One difficulty with the novel is twofold: things happen either too easily or with too much difficulty. For example, when Valentina and Erika decide to try to track down Julia’s tomb, they are convinced they’ll be able to find it. They simply enlist another expert and go to find it. However, archaeological finds, to my knowledge, don’t work that way. Picking a name and then going to try to find that specific person’s tomb from 2000 years ago is not how such finds usually happen. Though there are some pointers to help locate the tomb, the sheer confidence of Valentina and Erika that they can easily find the tomb made it difficult to suspend disbelief. On the flip side, when discoveries are made that include languages like Greek, at least one of our two main characters is unable to read it. It does not seem possible that anyone could become a renowned classical scholar and work with archaeological finds in the ancient world around the Mediterranean and not know a language like Greek.

The novel stumbles a bit in the last third. The following includes major spoilers. The archaeological expedition manages to discover Julia Episcopa’s tomb. Rigoli and Cummings here start to introduce a number of fantastic discoveries all at once. Not only do they find the tomb and therefore strong evidence of a woman who was a bishop in the early church, but they also find her mostly intact diary. The discovery of the tomb alone pushes on plausibility a bit, but adding in ancient texts starts to stretch credulity. Then, however, it truly starts to hit home how much is being packed into this novel at the end. They also find ensconced there a letter revealing the origins of a strong hierarchy for the papacy. If that’s not enough, they also find the Holy Grail! Then, at the end, additional events twist and turn so rapidly it’s hard to keep up. It’s a clear set up for a second novel, but by the end I was left wondering if I thought the whole thing was plausible enough to dive in to the next volume. I will, of course, because the premise alone was enough to sell me into the next book, but I was disappointed by this stumble towards the end.

All of that aside, The Mystery of Julia Episcopa is a refreshing read. More and more real world evidence turns up showing that women did have a much stronger role in the church than has been known for some time. This historical fiction novel, despite some flaws, delivers a compelling tale that lets readers wonder what it might have been like–and what it could be like–if huge discoveries to that end turn up.

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SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Bonhoeffer’s Life in Fiction- Critical Review of “My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love” by Amanda Barratt

Amanda Barratt offers an historical novel based on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer with My Dearest Dietrich. As the subtitle states, it is “A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love.” Specifically, Barratt delves into Bonhoeffer’s letters and writings and builds a narrative around them focused on his relationship with Maria von Wedemeyer.

Barratt does a fine job of weaving that narrative around Bonhoeffer’s letters. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on Bonhoeffer, but having read many books about him as well as his collected works, the narrative seems to at least largely follow the course of his life. Bonhoeffer’s close relationship with Ruth von Kleist-Retzow, Maria’s grandmother, is highlighted. Interestingly, Bonhoeffer’s first meeting with Maria is only presented in the briefest type of flashbacks. Historically, Maria’s grandmother had tried to get Bonhoeffer to accept Maria into his confirmation class, but he refused after seeing her as “too immature” to do so. In the novel, she’s upset about having embarrassed herself in front of him some years before.

In a sense, My Dearest Dietrich is a reframing of Bonhoeffer’s life. Essentially, Barratt turns many of his encounters with Maria or others into a kind of building of and reflecting upon growing love in order to make the plot work. However, much of this is done inside Bonhoeffer’s head rather than being drawn from historical documents. This is, of course, the way historical novels must work. Barratt’s goal of showing Bonhoeffer’s growing relationship and love for Maria requires this kind of internal monologue throughout in order to make sense. Thus, it has to be invented for the sake of the story.

Those who have studied Bonhoeffer extensively know that there is some question about his sexuality and more specifically his relationship with Eberhard Bethge. The most thorough look at these questions may be found in The Doubled Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Diane Reynolds. Reynolds argues extensively that Bonhoeffer was in love with Bethge. Moreover, she argues that Bonhoeffer’s relationship with Maria von Wedemeyer was a kind of cover as his imprisonment loomed. His relationship with the much younger Maria would solidify him as a “masculine” German–something emphasized in Nazi propaganda–while also providing a cover for any hints of homosexuality. Gay people were one of the oppressed classes of the Nazis who were rounded up and murdered by them (homosexuality remained outlawed in Germany for sometime after, as well). Thus, Maria would serve as a kind of double cover for any questions about Bonhoeffer’s conforming to cultural expectations.

Reynolds’s book presents a strong, thoughtful argument with which any scholarship related to Bonhoeffer must contend (see my full review of the book here). Barratt’s novel ignores that and essentially offers a counter-narrative in which Bonhoeffer is struck almost immediately by the thoughtfulness of young Maria and eventually comes to fall in love with her and get engaged with the intent to marry. For Barratt, none of these questions about sexuality arise. The absence of Bonhoeffer’s growing love and thoughts of love in some of his other works is explained largely through having no time to reflect upon it and actively resisting reflecting on it because he believed, in Barratt’s account, that other things were more important.

My Dearest Dietrich, then, is not just a novel about Bonhoeffer’s life. It is a retelling of the events and framing them in a way that cuts away some of the more intriguing questions about his sexuality and love for Maria. Bonhoeffer’s relationship to Maria, and the age difference between them (he was her senior by 18 years) has perplexed some Bonhoeffer scholars. Reynolds’s exploration helps make sense of some of these questions. Indeed, even setting aside his sexuality, simply offering the explanation that he saw Maria as a way to show his German virility to the Nazi interrogators is plausible enough.

What one makes of My Dearest Dietrich, then, is what one may. Barratt’s clear influence from Eric Metaxas’s pseudo-biography of Bonhoeffer is found in her acknowledgements, where she makes it clear that she was most influenced by that work. Metaxas’s biography, however, is largely ignored or rejected by broader Bonhoeffer scholarship due to its transformation of Bonhoeffer into a character of Metaxas’s own choosing. That Barratt was so deeply influenced by this biography and then wrote a novel of Bonhoeffer’s life with virtually no reference to any of the possible controversies it may raise is an interesting detail.

Barratt does make a compelling narrative, though, and one which, if she’s right about Bonhoeffer’s relationship, does a good job explaining those historical anomalies she does acknowledge. For example, Maria’s constant theme of doubting Bonhoeffer’s love is partially balanced by Bonhoeffer actively resisting the same for the sake of what he sees in the novel as his more important work of resistance. If Barratt’s view of Bonhoeffer’s love and sexuality (again, the latter being wholly ignored as a topic here) are correct, then her novel at least offers a way to make more sense of it all.

My Dearest Dietrich, then, is not merely an historical fiction. Rather, it is a kind of apologetic for one vision of Bonhoeffer. One that stretches the man in ways that go beyond the historical record, his own writings, and perhaps even the deepest parts of his character. As Stephen R. Haynes put it, the “battle for Bonhoeffer” continues. This novelization of his life is another battle front offering an alternate narrative of the man’s life and legacy.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer– read all my posts related to Bonhoeffer and his theology.

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman” by Holly Beers

A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman by Holly Beers is a part-historical fiction, part-nonfiction fusion that explores what the life of a Greco-Roman woman who was encountering Christianity may have looked like. It’s part of the “A Week in the Life of…” series from InterVarsity Press (See reviews of other entries in this series here–scroll down for more), and it’s another success. Each of these books is a standalone, providing unique historical background and individual narratives.

Beers writes the fictional portions about Anthia, a young woman and wife who encounters in just one week many of the struggles of people in the ancient world. Beers’s narrative is deeper than one might expect for a kind of slice-of-life narrative. Anthia’s story immediately drew me in as a reader due to the compelling, sympathetic way she is portrayed. She’s not simply a foil for background information; no, she reads as someone who lives and breathes in the ancient world, and who experienced everyday tragedy. Fears of childbirth and its dangers, navigating the strictures of society, and the simple pleasures of warm water are just some of the insightful character-building Beers weaves throughout the narrative.

The historical information included throughout is just as fascinating as in other entries in the series. These are usually presented in boxes throughout the text, which highlight numerous aspects of ancient society and life. One of the most fascinating of these for this reader was the look at associations in the Greco-Roman world and how that was also integrated into the plot. The text box on p. 23 shows the importance of associations and how membership was usually gained. Other information about “urban sanitation” (read: toilets), living in apartments, and perfume were also highlights. 

A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman is a deep look at what the lives of women would have been like in ancient Rome. It provides readers with a compelling main character to go along with a number of important insights into the day-to-day lives of people of the time that will enrich readers who are interested in the history of Christianity or of the ancient world. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Scott Westerfeld’s “Leviathan Trilogy”- Justice, War, and Love

Beautiful insert art from "Goliath," the third book in the Leviathan Trilogy.

Beautiful insert art from “Goliath,” the third book in the Leviathan Trilogy.

Scott Westerfeld is an extremely popular author of young adult literature. I recently dived into his “Leviathan Trilogy,” a series that tells an alternate history of World War I as steampunk. What is steampunk? Well… it’s hard to sum up, but for those not in the know, check out Wikipedia’s description. In this alternate history, the powers that split the world are aligned as either Clanker (using machinery, guns, and the like) or Darwinist (using genetically modified creatures to do battle). There will be SPOILERS for the series in what follows.

 Honor and Nationalism

The series begins with Prince Aleksander of Hohenberg, the son of the Archduke in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, being spirited away at night because people who do not want him to have any chance of becoming the Emperor are after him. Count Volger is one of those who have conspired to whisk him away. Volger’s character is interesting because although he is portrayed as largely unlikable from the perspective of Alek [Prince Aleksander], he is one of the most honorable characters in the series.

Volger acts as a kind of moral voice, but one which is strongly tied to nationalism. Volger’s honor provides a framework for Alek to learn from, and he does so spectacularly when he acts rightfully to stop a potential mass destruction later in the series (see below regarding Tesla). However, Volger is not infallible, and his moral compass appears to be inherently tied to what is good for the Austro-Hungarian Empire and what he perceives is good for Alek. This is in contrast to a wider, broader vision of moral action which would allow for self-critique on a national level as well. Volger at points seems to see how his moral/nationalist vision puts him at odds with what he thinks is right and wrong, but his commitment to that system makes it difficult for him to get beyond it.

Even if the reader thinks Volger is wrong, however, the honor he shows throughout the novels is something to be admired. The way that he acts selflessly at multiple points throughout the trilogy is noteworthy, and sets a strong moral example throughout the books. Again, this is interesting because from the narrator’s (Alek’s) perspective, Volger sometimes seems an insufferable grouch. However, Alek ultimately realizes the goodness of Volger, much to his own benefit.

These reflections lead naturally to a kind of self-examination for those who tend to think of their own nation in exceptionalist terms. Although exceptionalism is not, in and of itself, a moral wrong, it can very easily lead to the pervasive, systematic injustice. Volger’s character allows readers to examine this kind of thinking in a fictional setting, which makes it safer to think about while still engaging the reader on a deep level.

War and Justice

A central aspect of the trilogy as it plays out over an alternate World War I is the unity and disunity between the concepts of war and justice. In Leviathan, Great Britain seems to enter the war purely due to some perceived obligation–it doesn’t want to see the “Clankers” win. By the time we get to the third book, however, the depth of the discussion is much greater. Tesla has apparently developed a weapon capable of wiping out entire cities. Is it just to use such a weapon to bring an immediate end to the war, if that means sacrificing millions of lives to save tens of millions?

Thus, there are numerous questions about war and justice raised throughout the series. Some of these remain open questions–such as whether Great Britain in this example was right to wage war–while others are explored more thoroughly. One of these is Tesla’s attempt to use a weapon that allegedly can destroy entire cities. When he attempts to do so, Alek rushes to stop him, resulting in Tesla’s death. Here we see an act that might normally be considered a wrong–causing the death of another (though the moral status of its intent is something worth contemplating as well)–ends up being, ostensibly, a good. Ironically, Tesla’s weapon did not actually have the power he thought it did.

Male Privilege

Deryn Sharp has to pretend to be a boy in order to pursue a dream of serving in the air force of Great Britain. The subtle criticisms of male privilege found throughout the series is worth commenting on. One wonders whether we have actually overcome some of the clear biases against the capabilities of women that are mentioned throughout the Leviathan Trilogy. For example, resistance to women as firefighters, police officers, and the like persists in our time.

Conclusion

Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan Trilogy is a thought-provoking set of novels. It is also a beautiful story of love and adventure, with wonderful illustrations found throughout. It’s the best kind of story: one that makes you think.

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SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants” – Deconversion, Hope, and Strife

fog-follet

Ken Follett’s “The Century Trilogy” is a sweeping series . I just finished the first book, Fall of Giants, and realized there were several themes found therein that begged comment here. Here, I will analyze the book from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

I will not go over the plot of the book. A brief summary may be found here.

Deconversion

Billy Williams is a Welsh boy who goes to work in a coal mine. The first day on the job he is left alone in the pitch black–his lamp went out. Rather than wandering lost in the tunnels he keeps working until someone comes to get him. To keep himself from being too frightened, he sings Christian hymns and draws comfort from them. At the end, when the light is restored, he sees a fleeting vision of Christ just at the corner of the light and says “Thank you.”

If that sounds like the start of a storyline that will be an example of a life of faith to you, you would be disappointed. After an explosion in the coal mine, he is distressed by the problem of evil–why does God let bad things happen? As he grows older, Billy is exposed to textural criticism. He is disturbed that we don’t have copies of the original texts from which we get the words of the Bible. His father, who often preaches at their worship services, has insufficient answers. Later in life, Billy’s sister gets pregnant and is judged sharply by his father and their town because she is not married. He is strongly put off by the apparent hypocrisy of the people. He never returns to church.

I admit that “deconversion” may be a bit of a misnomer because it is never specifically said that Billy doesn’t believe in God anymore, but the implications are there. He has a deep distrust of and distaste for Christianity, it seems, after this.

The story illustrates the need for a firm foundation. Textual criticism is not something Christians should fear, as it allows us to recover the text of the Bible more accurately. The problem of evil is not unsolvable. And, unfortunately, Christian hypocrisy is actually something to be expected. Indeed, the Christian worldview would expect hypocrisy at times because we are still sinners in this world and will continue to commit wrongs, despite being people of faith. None of this was hinted at in the novel, but I suspect that this is due in part to the fact that Follett is himself an avowed secular humanist. There seems to be an agenda here (and see below).

Unfortunately, Billy’s story is similar to one we can see repeating in churches and families all over. We have not studied our faith. We have not worked out the hard problems related to Christianity, so when we are confronted by them, we are often found with pat answers rather than the truth. We need to actively seek out answers and be aware of our own limitations. Unable to answer every question, we should commit ourselves to a life of faith seeking understanding.

Hope

There is hope found in the darkness throughout the coming World War and the plights of the individual people. Hope is found largely in the actions of other people–the small kindnesses that are done even in the face of evil. As the world seems to be crashing down all around, it is relationships which keep people going. Some of these are vaguely religious in nature, though the persisting theme seems to be that people need to do for themselves whatever they’d like to accomplish.

Religious Leaders?

One persistent theme throughout the book is that those involved in the church are mean, nasty, and most likely sexual deviants. Any time a priest-whether Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodoxy or Anglican–is mentioned or encountered, it is almost always in context of some offhand remark about how they sexually harassed a child or how someone who is now an adult remembers when they were asked to have sex with the priest, etc. It’s actually quite tiresome. While on the one hand it is important to note that there are those within Christianity who have abused power throughout time, on the other hand, to suggest that everyone in some sort of position in power was a power-hungry sexual predator is uneven, to put it mildly.

Those who are not in established religion–like Billy’s dad–are portrayed as aloof, distant, and largely uncaring. Billy’s dad does get a chance to redeem himself as he accepts Ethel back into the family, but only after he had to consider the possibility of having his whole family fall apart.

Conclusion

Follett has woven an intriguing story with a very strong premise. It is unfortunate that throughout there also seem to be straight polemics against Christianity. A better balance was needed to make it seem realistic and not so much a diatribe against Christianity. Some good takeaways can be had from reading the book, but the worldview it presents is largely bleak and hopeless.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

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Source

Ken Follet, Fall of Giants (Signet, 2012).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

The Prayer of Judith: A Devotion from the Apocrypha

The Apocrypha is a wealth of devotional reading that remains largely untouched by Protestants. No longer, I say! Martin Luther said of the Book of Judith (in the Apocrypha):  “[T]his is a fine, good, holy, useful book, well worth reading by us Christians. For the words spoken by the persons in it should be understood as though they were uttered in the Holy Spirit by a spiritual, holy poet or prophet who, in presenting such persons in his play, preaches to us through them” (cited in The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition With Notes, 5-6). It should be noted that Luther is not suggesting that the Apocrypha is on par with the sacred canon. Instead, his view of the office of the ministry is that those ministering are speaking through the spirit. He and others view the book of Judith as a piece of historical fiction, made clear to its readers that it was fictional by its commingling of names from different cultural backgrounds and its generally ahistorical nature. Although it is fiction, that does not undermine the possibility of spiritual truths.

Here, we’ll explore the Prayer of Judith in Judith 9:1ff and see how it points to God as transcendent Lord of all creation.

[Y]ou have designed the things that are now and those that are to come. Yea, the things you intended came to pass, and the things you decided presented themselves and said, ‘Lo, we are here’; for all your ways are prepared in advance, and your judgment is with foreknowledge. (Judith 9:5ff, ESV translation of the Apocrypha)

Judith here acknowledges that all which God plans comes to be. Note that here, Judith does not affirm that God specifically intends for each and every thing that occurs. Rather, this passage reveals that God is in control over all things, accomplishing His plan in such a way that the things He intends will come to pass. Yet the author does not imply that God intends for all things which do happen. Judith does not pray thanking God for causing evil–such would be wildly inappropriate. Instead, Judith focuses upon God’s comprehensive plan which takes into account all things. God has “prepared in advance” all His ways. His judgment and execution of plans is “with foreknowledge.” God’s plans are with absolute foreknowledge of what occurs, and we can trust in God to execute rightly.

[T]hey [the Assyrians] trust in shield and spear, in bow and sling, and know not that you are the Lord who crushes wars; the Lord [YHWH] is your name. (9:7b)

One of my favorite lines in the entire book of Judith: “the Lord who crushes wars.” Think about the implications there: it is God who is control of the destinies of nations. Although the weapons of humanity may be raised against each other, the Lord crushes the war itself. We are reminded in Revelation that there will be a day with no more tears (Revelation 21:4). One day, God will crush the very possibility of war.

Furthermore, it should be noted that in context, Judith is not suggesting that God is against any type of war per se; after all, Judith goes on to behead the leader of the Assyrians and the Israelites pursue the Assyrians from their land. Instead, it is the trust in human invention that is under assault here. The Assyrians put their trust into their own weapons instead of God. Rather, it is God who should be trusted, for it is God who has the power not only to wage war but to destroy war itself.

[C]rush their arrogance by the hand of a woman. (9:10b)

God uses the unexpected for His ends. Women were not the expected leaders; deliverance was more likely to have come from a  great general–a man. Yet God uses the weak to bring down the strong.

[C]ause your whole nation and every tribe to know and understand that you are God, the God of all power and might and that there is no other who protects the people of Israel but you alone! (9:14)

Judith continues her prayer, exhorting God to bring His message to all peoples across the whole earth. Such is our own call as Christians. We are to carry out God’s plan in this mortal realm and bring God’s message to the whole earth. Yet we cannot forget that it is God alone who is our unfailing protector. We can trust only in God, not our weapons, not our might: we must trust in God who is far beyond such earthly powers.

Amen.

Source:

The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition With Notes (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2012).

SDG.

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