BA Books & Authors on the Web – December 18, 2015

Cover ArtOur congratulations to Craig Keener, whose four volume Acts: An Exegetical Commentary won a Christianity Today 2016 Book Award in the Biblical Studies category. Craig spent many years bringing this set to completion, and it is gratifying to see that effort acknowledged.

Keener is a scholar with gifts that come along once every century, and here we see them employed in full force. Words like encyclopedic, magisterial, and epic come to mind when you examine 4,000 carefully argued pages on every aspect of the Book of Acts. Nothing like this has ever been done—and it’s doubtful that anything like it will be done for a long time. Keener has a grasp of the ancient world like few scholars anywhere, but he also has a heart for the church and its mission

Also, congrats to Alistair Stewart and R. W. L. Moberly, whose The Original Bishops and Old Testament Theology appeared on the Jesus Creed Books of the Year list.

At Euangelion, Michael Bird recommended Gospel of Glory by Richard Bauckham.

The Pastor as Public TheologianCover Art, by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, won in the Ministry category of the TGC Editors’ Picks: Top Books of 2015.

“This book was a key factor this past year in renewing an important (and ongoing) conversation about the nature of the pastoral office. Vanhoozer and Strachan seek to restore the vision of the Reformers and their Puritan ancestors of the pastorate as an office primarily defined by theology. The pastor must not see himself fundamentally as a counselor or motivator, but as a man called to mediate the transcendent truth of God to the people of God so they might live all of life to the glory of God.”

Scott Sunquist’s The Unexpected Christian Century was reviewed by Robert Cornwall.

Aaron at AJ Cerda reviewed David Wilhite’s The Gospel According to Heretics.


BA Books & Authors on the Web – August 21, 2015

Cover ArtAt The Englewood Review of Books, Ben Simpson reviewed Leisure and Spirituality by Paul Heintzman.

“While Heintzman’s work focuses on leisure, he presents his research against the backdrop of work as it is understood within the current milieu, creating a relief. In this respect, Heintzman is like the sages of Issachar (1 Chron. 12:32) a person who knows and understands the times, offering the church knowledge that can equip us to live faithfully as disciples of Jesus.”

James, at Thoughts, Prayers, & Songs, reviewed Harold Netland’s Christianity and Religious Diversity.

At RBL, Judith Lieu reviewed The Original Bishops by Alistair Stewart.

“In this closely argued and exegetically analytical study, Alistair C. Stewart (who, publishing as Stewart-Sykes, has an impressive record as a patristic scholar) presents a vigorous rebuttal of what he describes as the “consensus” position concerning the origin of the threefold order of episkopoi (bishops), presbyters (elders), and deacons.”

George Hunsinger’s Reading Barth with Charity was reviewed at Diglotting.

Also at Diglotting, a review of 2 Corinthians by George Guthrie.

Tony Reinke shared an excerpt from The Pastor as Public Theologian, by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan.


BA Books & Authors on the Web – January 9, 2015

Cover ArtDerek Rishmawy, at The Gospel Coalition, explains “Why You Should Read Bavinck.”

“Bavinck’s accomplishment in the Dogmatics is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The expansive, nuanced, and deeply trinitarian theological vision is both intellectually challenging and spiritually nourishing. I anticipate turning to these volumes regularly in the years to come.”


Walter Moberly’s Old Testament Theology was reviewed at Euangelion.

Craig Blomberg reviewed A Peaceable Hope by David Neville, as well as The King in His Beauty by Thomas Schreiner, for the Denver Journal here and here.

Nate Claiborne reviewed Exploring Psychology and Christian Faith, by Paul Moes and Donald Tellinghuisen.

Chris Keith’s Jesus against the Scribal Elite was reviewed at CHOICE connect.

At Discovering the Mission of God, Ed reviewed Understanding Christian Mission by Scott Sunquist.

Andrew Root’s Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker was reviewed at Diglotting.

Michael Philliber, at Deus Misereatur, reviewed The Holy Trinity in the Life of the Church, edited by Khaled Anatolios.

Best Of

As 2014 came to a close, quite a number of Baker Academic titles were featured in “Best of” posts.

Galatians and Christian Theology, edited by Mark Elliott, John Frederick, Scott Hafemann and N.T. Wright, was named as one of “The Top (Mockingbird) Theology Books of 2014.”

At Crux Sola, Nijay Gupta listed Chris Keith’s Jesus Against the Scribal Elite, Galatians and Christian Theology, Jeffrey Weima’s 1-2 Thessalonians, and Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth among the “Best New Testament Academic Books of 2014.”

Women in the World of the Earliest Christians by Lynn Cohick, Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society edited by Susan Holman, Scripture and Tradition by Edith Humphrey, The Economy of Desire by Daniel Bell, and Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich by Helen Rhee were all in Alvin Rapien’s “Top 10 Books of 2014.”

The Missio Alliance Essential Reading List of 2014” featured Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology, by Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, and A. J. Swoboda.

At Reformation 21, Michael Allen and Scott Swain’s Reformed Catholicity, Simon Gathercole’s Defending Substitution, Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan’s The Pastor as Public Theologian, and Richard Bauckham’s Gospel of Glory were noted as “New & Noteworthy Books in 2015.”


Scot McKnight reflected on Alistair Stewart’s The Original Bishops in the post “Paul and the Economic Justice Vision of Jesus“, and Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth led to his discussion “Revolution in Eschatology Today?

Andrew McGowan, author of Ancient Christian Worship, wrote “Incarnation and Epiphany: How Christmas became a Christian Feast” for ABC Religion and Ethics.


Alistair Stewart: “Ecumenism and the Question of Apostolic Succession”

“Ecumenism and the Question of Apostolic Succession”
by, Alistair C. Stewart

The Original Bishops is the work of a grumpy old historian. As a historian, however, I am not unaware of the importance of history to the churches, though I leave it to others to draw out what is important. Yet I am aware that of all that I have written, The Original Bishops is of the greatest contemporary significance. I begin the work with Wesley, who brought about the final breach between Methodists and the Church of England through his ordination of superintendents for the American colonies. What is of interest here is that he claimed historical precedent. It is this historical precedent, or the denial of it, which guides much ecumenical conversation today and is the subject of my book.

Cover ArtWhen I was a student (more years ago than I care to admit), after practicing some version or other of Christianity for around five years and having taken an academic interest in what I was doing, I underwent what might, in other circles, be called a conversion experience. I was led, through the discovery of the discipline that then was still called patristics, to admit the rectitude of the historic and orthodox faith. This led me in turn to reclaim the Anglican heritage into which I had been baptized, but of which I had, until my “conversion,” no personal experience.

My personal experience of Christian practice had theretofore been entirely in the liberal end of the UK free church movement; thus belief in the central doctrines of Christianity—the incarnation, the Trinity, the resurrection of Christ—was essentially optional, and these doctrines certainly were not stressed. My conviction of the centrality of these truth claims therefore led to the necessity of changing my ecclesial commitment to a church that had maintained belief in these claims. That I became an Anglican as a result I may now see as a manifestation of my ignorance; however, I had recognized that a church which maintained apostolic succession through bishops might by that token have maintained the apostolic faith.

However, for all that apostolic succession, in the first instance, was intended as a proof of the succession of orthodox teaching, in catholic thought it has become more than that. It is the basis on which we might say that sacraments are validly celebrated, through the proper ordination of the priest who celebrates by a bishop in succession from the apostles. This position, deeply embedded in catholic thought, is reiterated in the documents of the second Vatican Council (thus Lumen gentium 18–29 and the Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church, Christus Dominus, especially 2 and 35). In particular since the bull of Leo XIII, Apostolicae curae, the Roman Catholic Church has denied the validity of Anglican orders as properly received in apostolic succession.

However, the Anglican position, maintained with particular vigor in Anglo-Catholic circles, has been that that Anglicans have received valid orders in apostolic succession, on the basis of an understanding of this doctrine close, if not identical, to the Roman position. The position of Orthodox churches is less linear, but these churches nonetheless have a recognizable doctrine of apostolic succession. This doctrine thus stands massively in the way of ecclesial relations between these different Christian communities, and between these and those with no claim of succession. The guilty secret behind all this, however, was the widespread suspicion by historians that the doctrine was without historical foundation.

The classical Protestant position, apparently far better historically grounded, is that the original ministers of the church were presbyters, and single bishops only emerged later, at the beginning of the second century (a position to which Ignatius of Antioch bears witness). Bishops prior to Ignatius were just presbyters under another name. It is this historical understanding that was the basis for Wesley’s action and for his claim of precedent for his actions.

If The Original Bishops proves anything, it is that this position is as much a dogmatic and unhistorical position as the traditional Catholic one.

I believe that I have shown that Ignatius is not a witness to a single bishop, as later understood, and that this kind of single bishop is a product of the early third century. As such, I might be claimed to have lent strength to the Protestant position, for when Ussher argued for episcopacy in the seventeenth century, Ignatius was his trump card. However, I believe that I have also shown that the original ministers of the church were never presbyters but rather episkopoi (bishops) and diakonoi (deacons). Harley’s observation that the past is a foreign country is thus as true of the church as it is of every other institution, since presbyters, whilst known, were never ministers.

Where this leads ecumenism I know not. Though the grumpy old historian masks a passionate Christian who is convinced that the division of the churches is a scandal, the mask is there in part because of my acknowledgment that I do not have the mind of a theologian. Moreover, as I note in an unscientific concluding postscript to my work, the scandal of division in the body of Christ is not the only scandal that grieves our Lord. Greater yet is the scandal of poverty. In my ministry as a relatively well-off minister of Christ, a week does not go by in which I do not go to the supermarket and buy basic foodstuffs to give away to those in this affluent country who have literally nothing to eat, who sit in darkness and cold because there is no money for electricity or gas. I have learned through my writing of The Original Bishops that what I am doing is the original diakonia of the early Christian bishop, namely, feeding the poor. In this activity I claim to stand in succession to the original bishops.


Alistair C. Stewart (PhD, University of Birmingham) is team vicar of Upton-cum-Chalvey, Slough, England, and visiting scholar of Sarum College in Salisbury, England. Recognized as a leading expert on early Christian liturgy and polity, he is the author or editor of a dozen books.

For more information on The Original Bishops, click here.


The Emergence of Monepiscopacy- an Excerpt from The Original Bishops

The following is an excerpt from The Original Bishops, by Alistair Stewart.


The extension of episcopal responsibilities to more than one congregation or Christian community and the corresponding appointment of subordinate officers is, I suggest, a development that emerges near the turn of the third century. It is in the last decade of the second century that Demetrius emerges in Alexandria as sole bishop taking control of independent schools, and probably in the first decade of the third that we find Serapion of Antioch engaging with the church at Rhossos regarding the Gospel of Peter.

Cover ArtBy the middle of the third century we find Cyprian in Africa convening councils of bishops from across the province to determine questions of discipline, and, perhaps most significant of all, we may observe the report of the Liberian catalog that Pontianus, the bishop of Rome, “and the presbyter Hippolytus [Pontianus episcopus et Yppolitus presbyter] were deported to Sardinia on the island of Vocina” in 235.8

At this point, on the basis of the joint mention of Pontianus as bishop and Hippolytus as presbyter, and given that a precise date is then given for the ordination of Pontianus’s successor, we can say that Rome had a sole bishop recognized by the self-defining catholic congregations of the city, and under whom presbyters served in the individual churches.

Thus, the same phenomenon of a sole bishop within a city of multiple congregations, assisted by subordinate officers, is to be found in multiple locations in this period, whereas, as will be observed below, evidence earlier than that is entirely lacking and evidence, at least for Rome, that this was not the case is strong. This system of sole bishops heading multiple congregations may properly be called “monepiscopacy,” for each bishop is a sole bishop set over congregations in a defined area with subservient ministers (presbyters and deacons).

The purpose of this book is to trace the history by which this system and its prevalence came about; if this is a development, we must of necessity discuss earlier systems of church order from which this system emerged.

©2014 by Alistair C. Stewart. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


For more information on The Original Bishops, click here.

New Release: The Original Bishops

Cover ArtThe Original Bishops provides a new starting point for studying the origins of church offices. Alistair Stewart, a leading authority on early Christianity and a meticulous scholar, provides essential groundwork for historical and theological discussions.

Stewart refutes a long-held consensus that church offices emerged from collective leadership at the end of the first century. He argues that governance by elders was unknown in the first centuries and that bishops emerged at the beginning of the church; however, they were nothing like bishops of a later period. The church offices as presently known emerged in the late second century. Stewart debunks widespread assumptions and misunderstandings, offers carefully nuanced readings of the ancient evidence, and fully interacts with pertinent secondary scholarship.


“Brilliant and breathtaking! With a commanding and encyclopedic knowledge of all the primary sources–Christian, Jewish, and pagan alike–and centuries of scholarship at his fingertips, Alistair Stewart has turned the kaleidoscope of evidence in such a way that the pieces fall into a coherent, comprehensive, and compelling picture.” – John Behr, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

The Original Bishops is a tour de force, creating a coherent yet complex narrative that, despite its frequent acknowledgment of ignorance given the scrappy nature of the evidence, is sure to be contested. Future discussion of the issues, however, will be unable to ignore this book.” – Frances Young, University of Birmingham

“Alistair Stewart has produced a major contribution to the study of church order in early Christianity that will form part of the foundation for future research.” – Allen Brent, King’s College, London

The Original Bishops is a must-read for those interested in the debate over the church order of the early centuries….Stewart’s thorough historical approach will enrich your understanding of the early church orders and inform the church’s continuing discussions on ecumenism and ecclesiology.” – Joel C. Elowsky, University Wisconsin


Alistair C. Stewart (PhD, University of Birmingham) is team vicar of Upton-cum-Chalvey, Slough, England, and visiting scholar of Sarum College in Salisbury, England. Recognized as a leading expert on early Christian liturgy and polity, he is the author or editor of a dozen books.

For more information on The Original Bishops, click here.