By Sophia Lufkin
In recognition of February as Black History Month, we shine the spotlight on three First Editions of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s (PhD BU’55) writings at the Andover-Harvard Theological Library. As the librarians write, “The original dust jackets and King’s signature add to the immediacy of his work, even 50 years after his death.”
Stride Toward Freedom, King’s memoir of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, was published in 1958. He describes the racial, social, economic, and political setting in Montgomery that led to the boycott. He also details his theology and philosophy of nonviolent resistance. When it was released in 1958, critics lauded Stride Toward Freedom as a “must-read,” and its message is still urgent today.
In Why We Can’t Wait, King’s third published book, he describes African-American activism in 1963, including the March on Washington. When it was published in 1964, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller wrote that it was an “incisive, eloquent book” addressing the history and future of the Civil Rights Movement.
King delivered the address, “Where Do We Go From Here?” at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta in 1967, one year before his assassination. In it, he describes some of the economic, housing, and commercial Civil Rights victories across the country. Yet he also calls for endurance as the fight continued: “We have left the dusty soils of Egypt, and we have crossed a Red Sea… but before we reach the majestic shores of the promised land, there will still be gigantic mountains of opposition… and prodigious hilltops of injustice.”
By Sophia Lufkin
With its subtitle, “Talmud isn’t just black & white,” the new Koren Talmud Bavli is a unique resource. For Hebrew Bible or Jewish Studies students, or anyone who has wondered what the Talmud is, this epic multi-volume set lays out the complete text with an entirely new feel. The Babylonian (Bavli) Talmud is the central source text of rabbinic Jewish teachings and theology. It consists of two core parts: the Mishnah (the Oral Torah, written in Hebrew, codified 200 CE) and the Gemara (Commentary on the Mishnah, written in Aramaic, codified in Mesopotamia by 500 CE). Each passage of Mishnah and Gemara is surrounded with commentary that has been added and refined as scholars interpret the core text, discussing and debating one another across the centuries.
This new edition, published by Koren press in Jerusalem, pairs the original text with illustrations, new translations, and modern and ancient commentary. New translations of the Talmud are rare, because of the volume of text involved—when complete, the Koren Talmud will comprise 42 volumes, and so far, 38 have been published. Because of its size alone, the Koren Talmud would be a major milestone; it is even more so for what it represents. For the first time, women translators and consultants worked on what has historically been an exclusively male textual tradition. The Koren Talmud won the National Jewish Book Award when it was released in 2013.
By Sophia Lufkin
The Massachusetts Bible Society Collection at the BUSTh Library contains over 4,000 items, including Bibles and tracts from a wide range of cultures and languages. Our spotlight is on The Whole Book of Psalmes: Collected into English Metre, published in England in 1637. It includes Psalm translations by Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins, and the 1560 Geneva Bible.
First published in 1562, this was one of the earliest translations of the Psalms into English. The authors composed this as a metrical psalter, meaning that they translated the original Hebrew into vernacular, rhyming poetry. The book included musical notation, and became one of the first congregational hymnals in the Church of England. It was distributed in churches, often bound together with the 1560 Geneva Bible. As the authors wrote in their title page, one of their hopes for this sing-along hymnal was that ordinary people would sing Psalms to themselves as they went about their daily lives, instead of contemporary “ungodly songs and ballads.” One of the most enduring hymns in this collection is William Kethe’s version of Ps. 100, “All People that on Earth Do Dwell.”
This edition was popular in its time, and was used in congregational worship until 1698. Perhaps unsurprisingly -- given its popularity with ordinary people -- critics derided the translations as simplistic and watered down. According to BUSTh librarians, Queen Elizabeth called this book “Geneva jigs” because she felt the tunes and translations were “inappropriately incompatible with the ancient prayers.”
The title page text reads:
“The Whole Book of Psalms: collected into English metre, by Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins, and others, conferred with the Hebrew, with apt notes to sing them withall. Set forth and allowed to be sung in all churches, of all the people together, before and after morning and evening prayer, and also before and after sermons: and moreover in private houses, for their godly solace and comfort, laying apart all ungodly songs and ballads, which tend onely to the nourishing of vice, and corrupting of youth.”