We American Christians were as excited to have a Bible to read.
I love medieval history. I know that makes me weird. It’s ok.
Once, my father brought one of his friends up to New Hampshire to visit me. While sitting in a diner, my dad says, “Joe, ask him what he does with his free time.” His friend looked at me. I told him, “I study medieval and Byzantine history.” The two of them exchanged a look and my dad just laughed.
It is not that my father thinks I am weird. He gets it. History is the fabric of our own existence, and the medieval world is our most neglected and possibly also most influential thread of our history.
Given an opportunity to read a book that explores the Plantagenet kings who defined what it meant to be English in the Middle Ages, of course someone interested in such history would want to read it.
It should come as no surprise that when the opportunity came up to review The Plantagenets by Dan Jones (Penguin Group – Viking), I leapt at it.
What can I say? Dan Jones was a great job of surveying the period from Henry II’s ascension in 1154 until Henry VII’s ascension in 1485. Being three hundred years makes the job of creating a readable single volume history hard enough; but when those three centuries are filled with Plantagenet intrigue, corruption, marriage, warfare, plague, and any number of other elements, the job’s complexity is multiplied.
Dan Jones’ prose is direct and to the point, but he takes the time to occasionally pause for a brief humanizing anecdote that helps us understand specifics a little better. He balances his views of all of the Plantagenet kings and avoids the generalized caricatures you find in many works on the period.
Most importantly, Jones does not gloss over significant events. He does not simply note, as many histories do, that the Hundred Years’ War was a catalyst for the rising use of English as England pulled away from France. He takes the time to note the progress of this change, particularly focusing on Edward III’s Pleading in English Act of 1362 which changed the official language of the courts of England. I have read a lot of popular histories of the Middle Ages, and Jones is the first to note this seminal event.
In brief, I found Dan Jones’ book to be well worth the investment of money and time to explore it. So much of the book illuminates the seed ideas of our modern English-speaking culture.
Yesterday was apparently “National Siblings Day”, and I missed it. To commemorate this rather insignificant day, I have chosen to write about a couple of my favorite siblings.
It begins with an empress, the daughter of an English king. Her name was Matilda, and her father Henry Beauclerc (Henry I) was both King of England and Duke of Normandy in the early 12th century. The path of her life was determined mostly by the early deaths of the powerful men around her.
As a child, she was married to Henry V, last of the Salian kings of the Germans. When Henry V died young, she was married to the Count of Anjou, Geoffrey the Handsome.
When her older brother and Henry’s only surviving male heir, William Adelin, died in an unfortunate shipwreck, Matilda should have inherited the rule of both England and Normandy. Instead, when her father died, Matilda’s cousin Stephen of Blois claimed the English throne. Matilda attempted to reclaim the throne three times, but each time Stephen managed to repel her.
The crown did not sit well on Stephen’s brow, and while he was busy trying to control Britain, Matilda’s husband Geoffrey conquered all of Normandy. This forced Stephen to surrended the title of Duke of Normandy to Geoffrey who than chose his eldest son, Henry Curtmantle, as his heir.
Stephen also had no heir, and Matilda managed to manipulate the situation so that Henry Curtmantle also received the kingship of England from Stephen. When Stephen died, Henry became King Henry II of England in addition to inheriting Normandy and Anjou from his father. He then married Eleanor of Aquitaine and quick succession became lord of more of France than the King of France controlled.
Of course, Henry was not Matilda and Geoffrey’s only son. Their middle son, named Geoffrey after his father, believed that Henry should have abdicated his rule of their paternal territory of Anjou when he became king of England. He believed this had been their father’s wishes. To drive home the point, Geoffrey actively supported Henry’s opponents in Britain and allied himself with the French king.
The French king, Louis VII, was none too pleased with Henry II. There could have been a lot of reasons for this, but chief among them was that Henry had married Louis’ ex-wife without his knowledge. In our world, that might not be a big deal, but when the marriage makes one of your vassals the master of 2/3 of your country, it is a big deal!
In order to answer Geoffrey’s attempts to wrest Anjou from his hands, Henry II crossed the English channel at the head of an army. Of course, Louis stayed out of this conflict between brothers, which raged on and off for a couple of years.
Then, in 1156, the Count of Nantes – the only French coastal town not controlled by Henry – died. The barons of Nantes asked Henry to name a new Count, and Henry selected his troublesome brother, Geoffrey. All at once, rivalries were forgotten. Geoffrey had really not been interested in Anjou at all. He just wanted to rule SOMETHING. Given the title of Count of Nantes, he became loyal to his brother until his sudden death two years later.
Not surprisingly, Henry then claimed Nantes and became its Count.
The lesson in all of this is simple. If your brother rules most of Britain and France, not even the King of France will be able to help you. Take what he gives you and be quiet, or he will just use you to claim more territory for himself.
I know this is a problem we face all the time today.
Once again, Tom Wright brings wisdom and reason to a hot topic. Toward the end, he addresses the Enlightenment arrogance of those who say, “We know more about homosexuality” or “We have evolved from the ignorance of the ancient world”. While Wright does not come down on one side or the other in this video, he brings up a lot of points that people refuse to consider in this debate (or rather argument). Chief among the issues worth considering is Wright’s point about differentiation in creation.
That the disciple of Jesus taught his resurrection was a revolutionary concept. Here is Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham and one of the foremost New Testament scholars of our day, explaining why the resurrection must be true.
“The only way you can explain why christianity began and why it took the very precise shape it was is – let’s say cautiously first – they really did believe he was bodily raised from the dead…the only way you can explain the rise of the early Christian belief that Jesus was raised is if there really was an empty tomb, and they really did meet jesus alive again in a transformed body.”
Those who know me also know about my on-again-off-again obsession with writing a book about David and the rise of Israel during the twilight of the Late Bronze Age and the birth of the Early Iron Age. One day, I will find the time and energy to write that book; but in the meantime, where is a series of expositional articles I wrote on the Book of Ruth, which serves as an introduction to the rise of David.
During the message today, I mentioned a model of Herod’s temple that was built by a British pensioner. The man’s name is Alex Garrard, and he spent the last thirty years constructing his model – which stretches 20 feet long and 12 feet wide. Sadly, Mr. Garrard passed away in 2010, and the model is no longer displayed for the public.
You can read the Telegraph article about Garrard and his hobby. I have to say that while the Holyland Model is pretty cool (I saw it in 1997), the scale of Garrard’s model makes it pale in comparison. The Holyland Model is 1:50 scale, and Garrard’s is 1:100, but Garrard’s is much more focused on the temple complex itself.
Here are some pictures of Garrard’s amazing model. They help us get a grasp of the massive complex begun by Herod the Great in 19BCE and completed in 62CE. The entire thing was destroyed in 70CE by the soon-to-be-emperor Titus.
Posted in Your House, Our House, His House on March 22, 2013
Friday, March 22
Paul’s last words to the church encourage us that the battle we are engaged in it is not just physical. The prince of the power of the air that he mentioned in chapter 2 arrays a lot of enemies against the work of the church. Paul lists a lot of important tools to defend ourselves against the attacks of the spiritual powers, but notice with most important one is in verse 18. The most important 12 that you have on your journey is going to be prayer; and not just individual prayer, but prayer together as the church. A single soldier doesn’t want a war on his own, no matter how many Rambo movies they make. Wars are won by teams working together. And that’s with the churches. A team.
Posted in Your House, Our House, His House on March 21, 2013
Thursday, March 21
This is a long passage, and it has a lot in it; but notice that Paul brings up the word walk again. It is our walk in love, not your walk in love. It is a shared walk – a shared journey. And how does Paul describe this journey? He puts it into practical terms. He talks about our families. He talks about our marriages. He talks about the relationship of masters and slaves. These are all different environments where we the church have an opportunity to walk in love. How can we bring a journey of love into each of these relationships?
Posted in Your House, Our House, His House on March 20, 2013
Wednesday, March 20
This is the third time that Paul refers to the walk. This time, it is the walk of the Gentiles, and we are warned against it. Who are the Gentiles? They are the nations and the people who are separated from God.
Being a Gentile has nothing to do with your ethnicity. It has nothing to do with not being Jewish. It has everything to do with your relationship to God through Jesus Christ. The Gentiles are those who refuse Christ. The chosen are those who follow him.
Paul divides the world into two groups of people – people headed toward Jesus and people headed away from it. Which way are you heading? Even as a believer you can be headed the wrong direction.