Towards Reconciliation: Review by Alastair B. Duncan

Review of Paul Gifford, Towards Reconciliation. Understanding Violence and the Sacred after René Girard, James Clarke & Co, Cambridge, 2020, 148 pp.

René Girard (1923-2015) was indeed one of the most extraordinary thinkers of the 20th Century. His theories were wide-ranging and developed over many years while remaining astonishingly self-consistent. He was a literary critic, which is how he began, but also a historian, anthropologist, philosopher and latterly a biblical scholar. His thought led him finally to be a Christian.

            Gifford’s book is designed as an introduction to Girard’s thought. He begins by establishing that even in our secular society the sacred remains a principle of group cohesion and collective identity, and that we are fascinated and haunted by its relationship to violence as manifested in twentieth century history or more recently in phenomena such as Isis.

Girard’s understanding of the relationship between the sacred and violence, to which Gifford devotes the next chapter, begins with the human capacity for imitation. Since Darwin’s theory of evolution most thinkers have stressed the continuity between animals and human beings. Girard sees a qualitative difference due to man’s much superior capacity for imitation (mimesis). Though that capacity promotes collaboration it also leads to rivalry between individuals and groups seeking possession of the same object, and hence to a dynamic reciprocity which culminates in violence, “in feud, vendetta or crusade” (p. 27). Paul illustrates this by analysing the regression to archaic violence in Golding’s novel The Lord of the Flies, violence which is seen to require a victim, a scapegoat.

Where, in the history of human beings becoming human, do the origins of this sacrificial violence lie (Chapter 3)? At this point Girard becomes what one might call a “theoretical anthropologist” in the way we talk of a “theoretical physicist”: his theory tallies with much physical archaeological evidence but does not, or does not yet, satisfy “the cognitivist preference for verified facts” (p. 56-57). Instead, it provides an overarching explanatory framework into which facts fit. At the origins of human society Girard posits a “founding murder”, not a single event but a repeated act which becomes ritualised as an expression of violence but also as a way of dealing with it. There is much archaeological evidence for the prevalence of human sacrifice: an innocent victim is put to death for the good of all.  As Gifford puts it: “The scapegoat acts de facto as a sort of lightning conductor for the violently destructive energies gathered within the community” (p. 37). By controlling and limiting violence, this repeated ritualised sacrifice permits the development of a distinctively human culture: “a hyperdeveloped, codified, generationally transmitted and renewed programme of group intelligence” (p.41).

In dealing with Girard’s commentaries on the bible (Chapter 4 and the first part of Chapter 5), Gifford stresses that for Girard religion is not “’natural’ (i.e. man-made)” or “’supernatural’ (i.e. God-given)” but that “both things may be – are most fundamentally likely to be – true” (p. 60-61). On this reading, the Old and New Testaments show emergent man coming to a better understanding of God. Girard’s theories of imitation and scapegoating cast new light on the story of the Fall from Eden. In the story of Abraham and Isaac human sacrifice is modulated to animal sacrifice. “Isaiah’s suffering servant” prefigures “the victim figure as saviour: rejected scapegoat of all, discharging the community of all its sins and violence” (p. 71). Yet the God of the Old Testament remains largely “the God of the archaic sacrificial system: the wrathful, retributive and often bloodthirsty Jehovah of Hebrew tribal imagining” (p. 71). The New Testament takes us beyond that understanding.  In his teaching (for example in the Beatitudes) and his actions (for example in the story of the woman taken in adultery), Jesus shows how human beings can escape the dynamic of imitative confrontational violence.  The Passion of Jesus recapitulates the founding murder but transcends it: “Jesus consents to enter into the scenario of the founding murder as victim in order to display that process at work in his people and in humankind and to reveal to all humans its nothingness in relation to the ultimate reality of the love of God” (p. 85-86).

Gifford’s book began life as a series of lectures given at Coventry Cathedral. This explains why the last part of Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 are devoted to the practical topic of reconciliation, the task to which Coventry Cathedra dedicates itself. Girard’s theories promote reconciliation in that they enable human beings of all faiths and none to reflect jointly on their beliefs in a new way. The anthropologist “provides a simple, concrete, but almost infinitely flexible – and therefore always pertinent – ‘grid’ for identifying problems and scanning their active components (negative mimesis, runaway dynamic, sacrificial logic, misrecognition, the mimetic crisis with its contexts and periodicities, etc.). Still more so when the scanning of the problems suggests a counter dynamic of transformation (simple in principle, fruitful in practice and variously applicable), namely, the transformation (metamorphosis, conversion) of bad (negative, hate generating) into good (positive, loving) mimesis” (p. 91). Girard is not necessarily optimistic that on a global scale such reconciliation can be achieved: humanity may be standing before “apocalypse or reconciliation” (p. 107). Yet the peace process in Ireland, as Gifford shows, was partly undergirded by Girardian thinking. And reconciliation between the different Abrahamic faiths may be possible if we recognise “that it is not ‘difference’ that separates us, but the mimetic rivalry we have in common…” (p. 120).

The book is rounded off by an extensive interview with Girard largely conducted by Gifford in 2009.  Covering in a different way much of the ground previously traversed, it shows Girard expressing himself in language that is powerful and accessible. At times Gifford intervenes within square brackets to elaborate on his own or Girard’s words. Occasionally (pp. 133-134) it is not clear who is speaking, Gifford or Girard. In one sense this is true throughout the book. Gifford has fully entered Girard’s world and speaks from within it.  The suspicion arises that before he was struck by a metaphorical bolt of lightning on a French camp site Paul Gifford’s first name was Saul. At any event he speaks with authority. He explores every corner of Girard’s work and counters all criticisms laid against him. The argument is lucid and compelling, enlivened by colloquial images and turns of phrase. This book is a challenging and a good read.

                                                            Alastair B. Duncan

Latest Reviews for July!

Here at James Clarke & Co we are pleased to be able to share with you all our new reviews from the likes of The Catholic Biblical Quartely andNew Zealand Journal of Asian Studies. If any of these titles interest you, please don’t hesitate to click on these links for further information and purchasing options.

interweaving - shadow.jpgInterweaving Innocence: A Rhetorical Analysis of Luke’s Passion Narrative (LK 22:66-23:49)
By Heather M. Gorman

‘This book is highly recommended to those with interest in the Lucan passion in particular, and in the principles of Gospel composition in general.’

Shelly Matthews, Brite Divinity School, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly vol.80 no.4 / October 2018 pp.726-7.


gospel - shadow.jpgThe Gospel of John: Worship for Divine Life Eternal
By John Paul Heil

‘Anyone who is willing to work through the Gospel with H.’s book in hand will undoubtedly have a richer understanding of the subject of worship and the organization, meaning, and purpose of John.’

Paul Jeon, Reformed Theological Seminary, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly vol.80 no.3 / October 2018 pp.529-31.


guns - shadow.jpgGuns and Gospel: Imperialism and Evangelicalism in China
By Ambrose Mong

‘This is a valuable volume on this subject and should be on the reading lists for this topic.’

Stuart Vogel, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, vol.20, no1. 2018, pp.109-11.



Stay tuned for more reviews soon!

Latest Reviews!

Here at James Clarke & Co we are pleased to be able to share with you all our new reviews from the likes of The Expository Times, CRC Press and others. If any of these titles interest you, please don’t hesitate to click on these links for further information and purchasing options.


Ever-Moving ReposeEver-Moving Repose: A Contemporary Reading of Maximus the Confessor’s Theory of Time
By Sotiris Mitralexis

‘This book will be important both to theologians looking to further explore Maximus’ works and their relevance for today, and to philosophers interested in ancient conceptions of time and the way these may challenge our contemporary understanding of physics.’

Emma Brown Dewhurst, Ludwig Maximilians Universitat Munchen, The Expository Times, Volume 130, Number 6, March 2019


Mary Sumner: Mission, Education and Motherhood: Thinking a Life with BourdieuMary Sumner
By Sue Anderson-Faithful

‘The Book has a useful timeline, and provides biographical notes on significant women activists of the period during which Sumner lived. There is a thorough bibliography.’

Gloria Cadman, CRC News, Book Reviews



The Final Days of JesusThe Final Days of Jesus: The Thrill of Defeat, The Agony of Victory: A Classical Historian Explores Jesus’s Arrest, Trial, and Execution
By Mark D. Smith

‘Anyone picking up and either reading or flicking through the pages of this book will be rewarded with a clearer insight of the classical world into which the critical events of the Gospel took root as that world understood it.’

P Mark Pullinger, CRC News, Book Reviews


The Artist and the Trinity: Dorothy L. Sayers’ Theology of WorkThe Artist and the Trinity
By Christine M. Fletcher

‘This is a good book to read if you’ve never heard of Sayers, if you already love one aspect of her work (as novelist, playwright, or theologian), or even if you are familiar with all of her work.’

Jennifer Woodruff Tait, Diversity, Future of the Movement, Resource Reviews


KempeKempe: The Life, Art and Legacy of Charles Eamer Kempe
By Adrian Barlow

‘One comes away with a sense of the shape of Kempe’s life, an interesting set of insights into his working methods, and, above all, the sense that he’s a considerable artist.’ ‘Adrian Barlow’s Kempe will send people back to the work, with much more background knowledge, with a clearer understanding of how his big Victorian studio worked, and, above all, with new enthusiasm and new eyes.’

Phillip Wilk, ‘Into the Light’, English Buildings, 29 November 2018


Stay tuned for more reviews soon!

Latest Reviews

Here at Lutterworth Press we are pleased to be able to share with you all our new reviews from the likes of The Tablet, Country Life and others. If any of these titles interest you, please don’t hesitate to click on these links for further information and purchasing options.

Andrew Young

Andrew Young: Priest, Poet and Naturalist: A Reassessment
By Richard Ormrod

‘Poetry was the linchpin of this formidably well-researched book.’
Sue Gaisford, The Tablet, pg 22, 22nd September 2018




Kempe: The Life, Art and Legacy of Charles Eamer KempeKempe
By Adrian Barlow

‘Adrian Barlow’s book is a scholarly biography of the outstanding and prolific stained-glass artist Charles Kempe.’

John Goodall, Country Life, pg92, 9th January 2019



Eloquence Divine: In Search of God’s RhetoricEloquence Divine
By Philip Arrington

‘This is an agnostic’s shrewd and clever critique of Christian fundamentalism – but it is also a fascinating journey into biblical literature and the assumptions that are made about it by more critical voices within theology.’

David Jasper, University of Glasgow, The Expository Times, Vol. 130(5) pg231, 2019



Suffering Romans
By Siu Fung WuSuffering in Romans

‘This fascinating exploration demonstrates that Paul’s audience were very much familiar with the realities of daily suffering. The author has a gift for locating his current argument within his larger argument. This monograph should represent a significant contribution to the field of Pauline scholarship.’
Michael Hayden, Castle Church, Stafford, Churchman, Winter 2018, pg265



C.S. Lewis at Poets' CornerC.S. Lewis at Poets’ Corner
By Michael Ward and Peter S. Williams (editors)

‘Here is something for almost everyone – often presented, suitably enough, with both charm and wit, and surely enticing many of us to read or re-read the books.’
Christopher Idle, Herne Hill, SE London, Churchman, Winter




Stay tuned for more reviews soon!




Latest Reviews

Here at James Clarke and Co. we are pleased to be able to share with you all our new reviews from the likes of Reading Religion, Journal of Ecclesiastical History and others. If any of the titles below interest you, please don’t hesitate to click on these links for further information and purchasing options.

The Use of the Old Testament in a Wesleyan Theology of Mission
By Gordon L. Snider


The Use of the Old Testament in a Wesleyan Theology of Mission 9780227176023‘In this interesting study, Gordon Snider; a professor at Kansas Christian College, sets out to examine if and how representative Wesleyan theologians and missionary leaders used the Old Testament to shape a theology of mission, and how far the outcomes corresponded with distinctive Wesleyan emphases.’
Martin Wellings, Editor for Wesley and Methodist Studies, Book Reviews, Vol 10, No. 2, 2018



The Conversion and Therapy of Desire
By Mark J. Boone

The Conversion and Therapy of Desire 9780227176665.jpg

‘In this fascinating and meticulously researched study of Augustine’s Cassiciacum dialogues, Mark Boone shows Augustinian scholars a productive way forward for better understanding how these philosophical texts can and should be analyzed both on their own terms and as part of Augustine’s evolving ideas about ancient philosophy and Christian theology. Boone’s work is a valuable contribution to Augustinian studies, and especially to the study of the Cassiciacum dialogues. It is carefully researched, well-written, and easy to follow even by a generalist Augustinian scholar.’
– Jennifer Ebbeler, Associate Professor of Classics at University of Texas, Reading Religion, 21st August 2018


A Tale of Two Theologians: Treatment of Third World Theologies
By Ambrose Mong

A Tale of Two Theologians 9780227176580

‘A Tale of Two Theologians: Treatment of Third World Theologies is a fascinating book that presents, with a new perspective, how the third world theologies have been treated by the Roman Catholic Church. This book successfully attempts a twin task of explaining this treatment of third world theologies, particularly those that do not fit into Western systems, and offering a comparative study of Latin American and Asian theologies. Mong has beautifully woven together these two tasks in one book without losing focus.’
– Murathuraj Swamy, Director of Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide, Reading Religion, 11th April 2018


Perfecting Perfection 9780227175880

Perfecting Perfection: Essays in Honour of Henry D. Rack
By Robert Webster

‘Perfecting Perfection is a fitting tribute to the author of such a considerable and influential output.’
– Robert Schofield, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Volume 68, Issue 4, October 2017



Stay tuned for many more reviews in the future!

New Reviews

Here at James Clarke and Co. we are pleased to be able to share with you all our new reviews from the likes of The Expository Times, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History and Journal of Chinese Religions. If any of the titles below interest you, please don’t hesitate to click on these links for further information and purchasing options.

Dialogue Derailed: Joseph Ratzinger’s War against Pluralist Theology
By Ambrose Mong

Dialogue Derailed

“Ambrose Mong leaves us greatly in his debt for introducing us to the rich interrelationships, not only between liberation theologies from different continents but also between different faiths”
John Riches, The Expository Times, Volume 129, Number 10, July 2018



A Tale of Two Theologians: Treatment of Third World Theologies
By Ambrose Mong

A Tale of Two Theologians

These two volumes by the Dominican Ambrose Mong, a priest and lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, open up a rich vein of reflection about liberation theology and inter-religious dialogue in the non-Western World.
John Riches, The Expository Times, Volume 129, Number 10, July 2018



Book of Homilies: A Critical Edition
By Gerald Bray

The Books of Homilies

“Gerald Bray’s critical edition of the Book of Homilies is a welcome addition to the few modern texts available. Bray provides a concise and detailed discussion of the expected critical issues related to all three books of homilies.”
Benjamin J. Snyder, Anglican and Episcopal History, September 2018



Guns and Gospel: Imperialism and Evangelism in China
By Ambrose Mong

Guns and Gospel

“Guns and Gospel is a sophisticated overview of the work of Christian missionaries in China, and it its pages we see a range of human motivation ranging from rapaciousness to charity.”
James Carter, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 2018




The Role of Death in Life: A Multidisciplinary Examination of the Relationship between Life and Death
By John Behr and Conor Cunningham (Editors)

The Role of Death in Life

“At a time when we are seeking to bring discussions of death into the open in many areas of life, organization, local and societal, it is encouraging to find a book which tackles this area in some depth from a variety of academic perspectives.”
Nell Cockell, Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, Issue 5, Volume 2, 2017



The Claim of Humanity in Christ: Salvation and Sanctification in the Theology of T.B. and J.B. Torrance
By Alexandra S. Radcliff

The Claim of Humanity in Christ

“Above all, I highly recommend Radcliff’s work that is a comprehensive account of the Torrances’ soteriology.”
Ximan Xu, The Expository Times, Volume 129, Number 9, June 2018




Postcolonial Public Theology: Faith, Scientific Rationality and Prophetic Dialogue
By Paul S. Chung

Postcolonial Public Theology

“Chung’s book has begun this much-needed conversation and should be applauded for its efforts to engage in such dialogue.”
Calida Chu, The Expository Times, Volume 129, Number 11, August 2018





Beware the Evil Eye: The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World (Volume 3: The Bible and Related Sources)
By John H. Elliott

Beware the Evil Eye

“This delightful volume is full of insights and source materials. Readers are indebted to Elliott for crafting a careful and insightful presence and use in the bible and related sources.”
Timothy Hein, The Expository Times, Volume 129, Number 11, August 2018




Contextualization of Sufi Spirituality in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth- Century China: The Role of Liu Zhi
By David Lee

Contextualization of Sufi Spirituality in Seventeeth and Eighteenth-Century China

“David Lee’s book makes a simple but potentially significant intervention in this field: it argues on the basis of Liu Zhi’s less-studied popular didactic writings that Liu was not mainly appealing to an emergent elite Sino-Muslim identity or the concerns of Sufi mysticism, but rather was engaged in a Muslim apologetics for Chinese audience.”
Erich Schluessel, Journal of Chinese Religions, Volume 46, Issue 1, 10 May 2018


Check out our New Reviews!

We are pleased to present some reviews from Reading Religion, Theological Studies, Ching Feng, The English Historical Review, The Expository Times, Reviews in Religion and Theology and Journal of Reformed Theology . If any of these titles intrigue you, feel free to check out the links for more information and to make your order.


The Human Icon

The Human Icon: A Comparative Study of Hindu and Orthodox Christian Beliefs
By Christine Mangala Frost

‘Without judgement or obvious inclusion of cultural bias, the text provides an informative entry point for strengthening understanding of aspects of [Hinduism and Orthodox Christianity]. …. Additionally, and congruous with the topical orientation of the book, the subjects covered are well defined and contextualized, and are given contemporary relevance. …. The appeal of The Human Icon can be found in its sensitivity and appreciation to religious practice, belief, and devotion, and its discussion of influences and commonalities that increases understanding of Hinduism through the inclusion of a discussion of Christianity.’ Madhavi Venkatesan, Reading Religion, 27 February 2018


Guns and GospelGuns and Gospel: Imperialism and Evangelism in China
By Ambrose Mong

‘By outlining the Chinese mission history, Mong draws attention to both global and local forces that influenced the passions, visions, and actions of different Protextant missions, the missionaries’ perception of China as ‘the Other’, and the dissemination of Christianity in a Chinese context …. Guns and Gospel is an essential reading for anyoen interested in Chinese Christianity, interreligious dialogues, and cross-cutural engagements.’ –  Joseph Tse-hei Lee, Ching Feng, 16.1-2 (2016)


Subversive Meals

Subversive Meals: An Analysis of the Lord’s Supper under Roman Domination during the First Century
By R. Alan Streett

‘The book has many good qualities and I recommend it. The bibliography is extensive, including opposing or different views, and the text is well organized with frequent summaries that keep focus on the theme.’ – Michael L. Cook, Theological Studies, Vol 79, 2018



Nationhood, Providence, and WitnessNationhood, Providence, and Witness: Israel in Modern Theology and Social Theory
By Carys Moseley

If anything can be said about this book it is that is surely has the momentum. …. [T]he book offers a thorough and provocative assessment of four important voices in modern theology on the matter of nationhood and national identities. …. Yet, Moseley shares her praiseworthy concerns and motives, illustrated by her decision to understand nationhood in the context of missiology.’ – Ruben van de Belt, Journal of Reformed Theology, Volume 10, Issue 4, 2016


Ecclesiology and the Scriptural Narrative of 1 Peter

Ecclesiology and the Scriptural Narrative of 1 Peter
By Patrick T. Egan

‘In general, the book gives a refreshingly theological reading and a clear, accessible exegetical argument. It provides a useful resource for thinking about the use of scripture in the NT, even if one disagrees with some of its claims.’ – Katherine M. Hockey, The Expository Times, Volume 129, Number 6, March 2018



Perfecting PerfectionPerfecting Perfection: Essays in Honour of Henry D. Rack
Edited by Robert Webster

‘Unlike some Festschriften this is a valuable (and reasonably priced) collection which is considerably more than the sum of its parts, and a suitable tribute to an outstanding scholar.’ – G.M. Ditchfield, The English Historical Review, Volume 133, Issue 560, 20 March 2018



An Ethiopian Reading of the Bible

An Ethiopian Reading of the Bible: Biblical Interpretation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church
By Keon-Sang An

‘There is no doubt that the transdisciplinary approach of this book to ecclesiology represents a unique and remarkable contribution to the field….[I] would warmly recommend this book to anyone interested in studying ecclesiology. It is not just the innovative perspective that makes this volume an important accomplishment, but also the gathered variety of methodologies and ecclesiological loci which it presents.’ – Petre Maican, Reviews in Religion and Theology, January 2018



Guest Blog: A review of Margaret G. Sim’s ‘A Relevant Way to Read’ by Zoe Hollinger

James Clarke & Co is proud to present a guest blog post from Zoe Hollinger, a PhD student studying the intertextuality and the use of the Old Testament in Hebrews from Belfast.

Review of Margaret G. Sim’s, A Relevant Way to Read: A New Approach to Exegesis and Communication. Cambridge: James Clark and Co., 2016; 136 pages; £17.50; ISBN: 9780227174425.

Relevant Way to Read_9780227174425
A Relevant Way to Read: A New Apporach to Exegesis and Communication by Margaret G. Sim

In A Relevant Way to Read, Margaret G. Sim draws from her background as a linguist and Bible translator in order to provide a brief introduction to relevance theory and its application to biblical studies. Relevance theory originated as an attempt to explain how humans communicate, emphasising the importance of inferring information and optimising relevance. Although some of the insights gained from relevance theory have influenced how linguists translate Scripture, little work has been done on how the theory may benefit NT exegesis. Through her utilisation of relevance theory, the subject of her PhD, Sim intends to provide a new angle through which old interpretive problems can be examined (p117).

Sim’s study can be divided into two parts: the first section provides the theory behind her study (chapters 1-2), whilst the second demonstrates how one can apply this theory to particular areas of NT interpretation (chapters 3-7).

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to debates regarding the nature of communication and authorial intent. In contrast to deconstructionism, which denies that texts have meaning, Sim argues that relevance theory provides a more satisfying explanation for how humans communicate. This is because the very creation of a text implies that the author intends to communicate with her audience (p2). This reality coheres with the basic premise of relevance theory: “The speaker assumes that a hearer listens to what he has to say because she is interested in it: it has relevance for her” (p4).

In chapter 2, Sim begins with a short orientation to the topic of relevance theory, charting its origins in the work of Deirdre Wilson and Dan Sperber, before discussing the main points of the theory and providing a definition of key concepts used: underdeterminacy, inference, metarepresentation, and ostension.

Chapters 3-7 demonstrate the working out of relevance theory by applying it to a number of contentious issues in NT interpretation.

Chapter 3 deals with how the NT authors re-present their thoughts, and the thoughts of others, in their writings. As a result, Sim examines the understanding of NT metaphor and issues surrounding the use of the OT within the NT. She concludes that the expectation of exact resemblance in citations is a modern notion and should be abandoned, and that more weight should be given to the use of metaphor, echoes and allusions when attempting to gain insight into a NT author’s communicative intent (p51).

Sim redefines irony in chapter 4 as “echoing a thought, belief or utterance of another while maintaining a distancing attitude to such an utterance” (p70) and demonstrates the usefulness of such a definition through an analysis of 1 and 2 Corinthians.

In chapter 5, Greek particles are analysed to determine how they can guide interpretation. Sim is rightly critical of the idea that each particle has a fixed lexical meaning and shows, through the use of relevance theory, how these words signal to the reader what the author desires to communicate.

Chapter 6 examines the difficulty of understanding conditional sentences. Sim encourages a move away from traditional categories ‘factual’ and ‘counterfactual’ since the potentiality of a conditional sentence is decided on pragmatic terms. Instead, she focuses on the logical relationship between the two clauses of the conditional sentence in order to provide a clearer exegesis of NT passages.


Chapter 7 concludes the book by providing a summary of Sim’s argument, as well as touching on issues relating to tense and time in Greek verbs. This is not a detailed discussion, however, since the chapter’s aim is to encourage scholars to employ the basic insights of relevance theory in their future research. Sim illustrates and provides support for her arguments with a wide variety of examples drawn from day-to-day interactions, NT passages, ancient Greek authors, and even classic works of literature. Each chapter ends with a summary of the key points dealt with in the chapter. Sim also provides a more substantial glossary at the back of the book as well as further reading for those interested in understanding relevance theory in more detail.

For non-specialists with no previous background in linguistics, A Relevant Way to Read provides a clear and concise introduction to relevance theory. The book is comprehensive in its summary of the main ideas associated with relevance theory, but does not overwhelm the reader with unnecessary information. Sim avoids the over-use of technical vocabulary and only provides enough linguistic theory to enable a biblical scholar to apply it to the text of the NT. Scholars more aware of the intricacies involved in the arguments surrounding relevance theory may protest that Sim has not covered everything that there is to be said about relevance theory, but that is not her purpose (p28), and, as with any short introduction, the book is necessarily selective.

Sim’s book is to be commended for its originality. It sets a precedent for further research into biblical texts, since relevance theory has not garnered the attention it deserves in biblical studies. Nonetheless, the novelty of this theory may mean that some of Sim’s conclusions are open to further questioning or refinement, but the benefit of this is that it invites scholars to interact with how relevance theory applies to specific problems in NT interpretation.

Sim’s attention to the original NT Greek text will appeal to students with a background in Biblical languages, but the provision of her own English translation of each text means that students with little or no grasp of the original Greek are still able to understand the force of her arguments.

Overall, Sim has written an incredibly accessible orientation to relevance theory and its application to NT exegesis, one which will appeal to senior biblical scholars and graduate students alike.  It is sure to influence a number of future studies as scholars seek out new and original methods to apply to NT texts.

Zoe Hollinger is currently undertaking a PhD on intertextuality and the use of the Old Testament in Hebrews, under the supervision of W. Gordon Campbell at Union Theological College, Belfast.

If you would like to get involved in writing a guest blog post for either our James Clarke site or Lutterworth Press, we would be delighted to hear from you!

Please send your name, degree title and university to, along with the topic that you wish to cover.

‘Mong’s is an authentic voice and merits great attention’: reviews of ‘Accommodation and Acceptance: An Exploration of Interfaith Relations.’

Accommodation and Acceptance shows us a ‘gentle way’ for dialogue, mutual respect and even the ‘holy envy’ of admiration which should be ours in the interreligious encounter of the twenty-first century. Mong’s is an authentic voice and merits great attention.”

Rev James F. Loughran, SA, Director of the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute, New York

Accommodation and Acceptance_9780227175187
Accommodation and Acceptance: An Exploration in Interfaith Relations  by Ambrose Mong

‘Mong masterfully shows how Christian faith needs to be reconceptualized in its encounter with Asian religions, from Christology to ecclesiology to Trinitarian theology. This book is a must-read not only for Asian Christians but also, and one may argue especially, for Western Christians.’
Professor Peter C. Phan, Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought, Georgetown University
Accommodation and Acceptance: An Exploration in Interfaith Relations is available to purchase now! For more reviews, extracts and to get your copy, go to: