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The End is Music:
A Companion to Robert W. Jenson’s Theology

by chris e. w. green
cascade, 107 pages, $17

We are still in the first stage of the reception of Robert ­Jenson’s theology, but Chris E. W. Green has emerged as one of the most thoughtful and active Jensonians. The End is Music is an entry in the Cascade Companions series, a small introduction intended for a readership wider than academic theologians.

Jenson described his theology as “revisionary metaphysics,” a project akin to the Church Fathers’ baptism of ancient philosophy. For Jenson, patristic labors are exemplary but unfinished. Antique assumptions about what God must be in order to be called God went beyond what Scripture’s narrative allows, inadvertently enshrining in Christian doctrine otherwise “Greek” desiderata about deity—above all, impassibility, or in Jenson’s phrasing, “immunity to time.” Can such a god make a covenant or die on a cross? In response to these questions, Jenson “attempted nothing less than a revision of the entire sweep of Christian dogmatics, beginning with a dramatic reimagining of what it means for God to be the Trinity revealed in the story the church tells about Jesus.”

Green communicates the beauty of Jenson’s vision—for example, in his lovely description of Jenson’s theological epistemology: “The events of Jesus’s life are simply the events of God being God in reach of us”—and why so many have found Jenson to be a spur not only to serious theological thought, but to adoration of the Holy Trinity, ipsa pulchritudo.

—Brad East

Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake:
The Birth of the Medical Profession

by t. a. cavanaugh
oxford, 192 pages, $29.95

The Hippocratic Oath has fallen on hard times. American medical students still profess public oaths in “white coat ceremonies” at the outset of medical school or upon graduation. However, these oaths range from heavily edited versions of the original Oath—with the prohibitions against assisted suicide and abortion deleted—to oaths written by the medical students themselves. Scholars today dismiss the Hippocratic Oath as an obscure document from a narrow Pythagorean sect that was adopted by later medieval or Renaissance physicians and retroactively awarded canonical status. 

This volume goes a long way toward rescuing Hippocrates’ Oath from oblivion. Dispensing with the Pythagorean sect hypothesis, ­Cavanaugh argues that the Oath (which he regards as written by Hippocrates himself) was foundational for medicine. Medicine is perennially threatened by role conflation: The one who has the power to cure also has the power to injure, including the power to kill. The inherently therapeutic Hippocratic norm “to help or do no harm,” internal to the practice of medicine as a healing enterprise, is secured precisely in the parts of the Oath that are excluded today: the prohibitions against killing the ­unborn or the sick. 

Cavanaugh is not the first to make this argument, though he is the first to unpack it with historical and philosophical depth. Society is recurrently tempted to make the physician a killer. The public promise of the Hippocratic Oath once served to protect doctors from this corruption of the healing profession. We would do well to recover it.

—Aaron Kheriaty