Stephen L. Harris ’59

The New Testament

The New Testament: A Student’s Introduction, Sixth Edition
528 pages, paperback

Exploring the Bible
480 pages, paperback
Both, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009

In Exploring the Bible and The New Testament: A Student’s Introduction, Stephen L. Harris has a pair of marvelous texts aimed at beginning students of the Bible. While both were written for undergraduates, either could easily be used by anyone wanting to study the Bible on their own or with a group. Each text is organized into digestible chapters. At the end of each chapter are lists of discussion and review questions, a summary of key terms and concepts covered, and suggested additional readings.

Exploring the Bible

The two books are similar in many ways. Both seek to give the reader a sense of the tools and methods of serious biblical scholarship, and both go beyond the text of the Bible to offer context—the political, social, cultural, and historical conditions under which the Scriptures were created. Both are beautifully illustrated with maps, diagrams, and photos of artworks and archeological artifacts. The general layout and formatting are similar, and they also share content, as some of the New Testament material appears in both volumes.

There are significant differences, too. The New Testament is the much handsomer book, with many more illustrations, most of which are in full color. Exploring the Bible includes only black and white illustrations. And while Exploring the Bible largely takes on each book of the Bible in order, The New Testament is organized by theme. In this edition Harris spends a good many pages exploring how the canon was developed and looking at the worlds of Judaism, Rome, and Greece from which Christianity arose. He doesn’t get to taking on the Gospels until chapter six. Harris also covers the noncanonical Gospels, and devotes considerable space to a search for the “historical” Jesus. The final chapter is a look at Christianity after the early years, tracking the evolution of the Bible through Constantine, and examining such challenges as the rise of Islam and the Protestant Reformation, right up through the continuing debate in the third millennium.

Of particular interest to this reviewer is the section on St. Paul in The New Testament. Harris devotes an entire section of the book, five chapters and nearly 100 pages, to this key figure of the early church and a look at what he did and didn’t write, where, when, and under what circumstances. To say that Paul greatly shaped modern theology is an understatement. Harris writes that Paul is “second only to Jesus in his contribution to the development of Christianity.” Paul’s writings on the role of women in the church, marriage and divorce, and slavery, among others, have generated much discussion and controversy over the years. Much of this material is shared with Exploring the Bible.

Harris is professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Humanities and Religious Studies at California State University, Sacramento.

— Greg Scheiderer

The Art of Command

The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell
Edited by Harry S. Laver and Jeffrey J. Matthews
296 pages, hardcover
The University Press of Kentucky, 2008

Harry Laver and Jeff Matthews confess in the introduction to The Art of Command their agreement with the assertion of noted presidential biographer James MacGregor Burns  that “leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on Earth.” However, they allow that we’ve come a long way toward understanding in the three decades since Burns penned the line. Surely this book has advanced the scholarship substantially.

Laver, associate professor of military history at Southwestern Louisiana University, and Matthews, director of Puget Sound’s Business Leadership Program, have gathered nine essays, each of which matches a renowned military leader with a vital characteristic of great leadership: integrity, vision, determination, charisma, adaptability, understanding of institutions and cultures, and openness to new technology. While the leaders profiled all possess most if not all of these characteristics, the essays intend to highlight a trait the leader most clearly exemplifies. Thus, George Washington is held up as a beacon of integrity and Ulysses S. Grant, in an essay authored by Laver, is singled out for his famed determination.

The big surprise in the collection is the piece by Matthews on Colin Powell, whom Matthews calls an exemplary follower, an attribute we don’t often consider as part of leadership. And a common thread through the nine essays is that great leaders are not simply born with a knack. Leadership requires learning, ambition, hard work, and, most important, good mentors and role models along the way. — GS

Strategic Public Relations: 10 Principles to Harness the Power of PR
Jennifer Gehrt and Colleen Gehrt Moffitt ’91
174 pages, hardcover
Xlibris, 2009

Public relations practitioners from novice to seasoned pro are doing a lot of wondering about today’s newfangled communication tools. Should I have a blog? Shall we create Facebook pages for our clients? What if everyone else is Twittering and I’m not?

Colleen Moffitt and Jennifer Gehrt say those folks are asking the wrong questions. The sisters and business partners in the firm Communiqué Public Relations urge those in PR to stop thinking about tools and tactics first, and instead to focus on goals and strategies in designing successful PR campaigns.

Strategic Public Relations is filled with solid advice as well as interviews with PR pros, top business leaders, reporters, and scholars. Each chapter takes on a principle of the authors’ thoughtful approach, from selling the PR program to key stakeholders, through building a team, developing and executing a plan, telling compelling stories, measuring results, and sustaining the effort over time. And yes, chapter four gets into search engines, social media, blogs, podcasts, and videocasts, exploring how each might be a part of an overall PR strategy.

Strategic Public Relations should be required reading for anyone considering getting into the PR business, and it has new thinking and insights worthwhile to the seasoned professional, too. — GS