The Magdalene in the Reformation by Margaret Arnold (Belknap, £23.95 (£21.55); 978-0-674-97999-4).
“Prostitute, apostle, evangelist-the conversion of Mary Magdalene from sinner to saint is one of the Christian tradition's most compelling stories, and one of the most controversial. The identity of the woman-or, more likely, women-represented by this iconic figure has been the subject of dispute since the Church's earliest days. Much less appreciated is the critical role the Magdalene played in remaking modern Christianity.”
When Christians Were Jews: The first generation by Paula Fredriksen (Yale, £20 (£18); 978-0-300-19051-9).
“A compelling account of Christianity's Jewish beginnings, from one of the world's leading scholars of ancient religion. How did a group of charismatic, apocalyptic Jewish missionaries, working to prepare their world for the impending realization of God's promises to Israel, end up inaugurating a movement that would grow into the gentile church? Committed to Jesus's prophecy — "The Kingdom of God is at hand!" — they were, in their own eyes, history's last generation. But in history's eyes, they became the first Christians.”
Tradition: Understanding Christian tradition by Gerald O’Collins (OUP, £20 (£18); 978-0-19-883030-6).
“A 1963 report on tradition from the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches signalled a substantial convergence between the churches over Christian tradition and its relationship to Scripture. However, since the 1960s theologians have regularly ignored the theme of tradition. Tradition proposes various criteria (e.g. the message of the Scriptures and spiritual experience) for discerning and evaluating specific traditions.”
Johann Sebastian Bach: A very brief history by Andrew Gant (SPCK, £12.99 (£11.70); 978-0-281-07957-5).
“This brief historical introduction to Bach explores the social, political and religious factors that formed the original context of his life and work, and considers how those factors affected the way he was initially received.”
Ritualized Faith: Essays on the philosophy of liturgy by Terence Cuneo (OUP, £20 (£18); 978-0-19-882880-8). New in paperback
“Central to the lives of the religiously committed are not simply religious convictions but also religious practices. The religiously committed, for example, regularly assemble to engage in religious rites, including corporate liturgical worship. Although the participation in liturgy is central to the religious lives of many, few philosophers have given it attention. In this collection of essays, Terence Cuneo turns his attention to liturgy, contending that the topic proves itself to be philosophically rich and rewarding.”
Selected by Frank Nugent, of the Church House Bookshop, which operates the Church Times Bookshop.