Book review – Son of God (Angela TILBY)

20010520 Son of God

A good text to start with on Jesus the man

I wanted to read Son of God because of the tie-in with the BBC televised programme of the same name. Surprisingly, the book was not to be found in my local BBC shops or bookshops at the time the programme aired. (Who to blame: BBC or book publishers Hodder & Stoughton?)

Having secured the book, I was disappointed that the link between it and the programme was so weak. So, don’t purchase this book if this is your expectation. (However, the two sets of colour plate illustrations are taken from the programme.)

How about the book itself? The 182 pages are easy enough to read, with large font size and generalist-style prose. Indeed, the book is to be recommended as a starter guide to the human (but not divine) life of Jesus. In this context, it is a good read. Presenting the historical knowledge of surely the most significant human of existence in an easy-to-read format could not be a simple task, and Angela Tilby does well.

The compromise of this approach is to have to omit background knowledge of certain events. Tilby does her best efforts here, but the treatment of historical contextualisation reads like an insider’s knowledge: if you already know the political history at the time of Jesus’ life, then what is presented suffices; if you don’t you just carry on, paying attention to the detail on Jesus. To make curious ignoramuses like me happier, a more comprehensive reading list at the end would have been appreciated: not just on the history of the life of Jesus, but to learn more on the ‘wretched and undistinguished career’ of Pilate, for example.

Overall, Son of God is a satisfactory book. It deflated my raised expectations after watching the very interesting television programme. But the book is a good text to start with, to learn the history of Jesus the man.


Book review – Party Elites in Divided Societies (Kris DESCHOWER)

19990927 Party Elites

A tour des forces study of consociational democracy

This is quite a comprehensive comparative study of those countries acclaimed to be practising consociational democracies. The prose is highly academic (in tradition of Routledge), and is not recommended for those without a sound understanding of the consociational model. For this, Lijphart’s Democracy in Plural Societies¬†(1977) is a genuine starting point.

Party Elites is a strong book. The theoretical framework and case studies are solid. My study topic is Northern Ireland politics, and the chapters on Belgium and Israel particularly interest me. Deschouwer makes an important point that the development of working federalism is no mean feat. ‘Classic consociationalism’ argues for federal structures, but achieving them can be quite a challenge with the claims of segmental autonomy. I argue that ‘classic consociationalism’ is more consistent with *con*federalism, and federalism is more representative of what is termed ‘integrative power-sharing’, as defined by Timothy Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts (1996), informed by Donald Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict¬†(1985). The integrative model does not juxtapose opposing models of power-sharing, only different emphasises, strengths, and weaknesses.

Overall, however, Party Elites is a tour des forces on consociational democracy; just consider other possible models of power-sharing!