Brakke, David 1961- (David Bernhard Brakke)
Brakke, David 1961- (David Bernhard Brakke)
Office—Department of Religious Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University, Sycamore Hall 230, Bloomington, IN 47405. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, editor, professor, and scholar. Concordia College, visiting assistant professor, 1992-93; Indiana University, Bloomington, assistant professor, 1993—.
International Association of Coptic Studies, North American Patristic Society, American Academy of Religion, American Society of Church History, Society of Biblical Literature, Chicago Society of Biblical Research.
Mellon Fellow in the Humanities; Indiana University Outstanding Junior Faculty.
Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1995.
(With Mary Jo Weaver and Jason Bivins) Introduction to Christianity, 3rd edition, Wadsworth (Belmont, CA), 1998.
(Editor) Pseudo-Athanasius on Virginity, Peeters (Louvain, Belgium), 2002.
(Editor, with Charles A. Bobertz) Reading in Christian Communities: Essays on Interpretation in the Early Church, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 2002.
(Editor, with Michael L. Satlow and Steven Weitzman) Religion and the Self in Antiquity, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 2005.
(Editor, with Anders-Christian Jacobsen and Jörg Ulrich) Beyond Reception: Mutual Influences between Antique Religion, Judaism, and Early Christianity, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 2006.
Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.
Contributor to books, including The Cambridge History of Christianity, 2006. Contributor of scholarly articles to the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Church History, Journal of the History of Sexuality, and Journal of Early Christian Studies. Editor, Journal of Early Christian Studies.
David Brakke is a writer, editor, professor, and scholar of religion and religious history. Brakke earned his B.A. from the University of Virginia in 1983, and then went on to continue his academic career by earning an M.Div. from Harvard University, and then an M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Yale University. Brakke took his final degree in 1992. The following year, he began working as a professor at Indiana University. Throughout his career, Brakke has had a prolific output as both a writer and editor. Indeed, he is the editor of the Journal of Early Christian Studies and has contributed articles to such periodicals as the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Church History, Journal of the History of Sexuality, and the Journal of Early Christian Studies. In an autobiography posted on the Indiana University Web site, Brakke stated: "My research focuses on individual and communal self-definition, particularly as it takes place in ascetic behaviors, ritual, and the production and interpretation of scripture."
Brakke's full-length publications are no exception to this statement. He wrote the third edition of Introduction to Christianity with Mary Jo Weaver and Jason Bivins in 1998. Brakke is also the sole editor of Pseudo-Athanasius on Virginity, which was published in 2002. Brakke's first full-length work, of which Brakke was the sole author, is Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism. The volume was released in 1995 and is based on his doctoral dissertation. The volume is an exploration of the ancient theologian Athanasius. Brakke gives a thorough overview of the writings attributed to Athanasius, as well as his views on virginity and on the role and purpose that monks should play in the clergy.
For a first book with what some might call an obscure topic, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism was widely reviewed. Indeed, critics unanimously commented on the fact that the book was well written. T.D. Barnes, reviewing the book in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, called Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism a "fine book," adding that it has "many admirable features." Barnes also went on to note that "scholars who have not mastered the relevant languages will be particularly grateful for Brakke's rendering of texts preserved only in Coptic, Syriac and Armenian." Peter Widdicombe, writing in the Journal of Theological Studies, took an in-depth look at some of Brakke's arguments and noted that "critical to [the] process of self-formation was the practice of imitation, which, Brakke believes, was one of the main means through which Athanasius strengthened his grip on the Church." Widdicombe then added that Brakke shows that, according to Athanasius, it was "imitation … rather than academically inspired intellectual speculation, [that] was the pathway to the holy life." Widdicombe ultimately concluded his review by commenting that "there is much of interest in this provocative book, but whether Athanasius was quite as self-conscious and systematic in his ‘politics of asceticism’ as Brakke's analysis suggests is not certain." Despite this criticism, Widdicombe called Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism "a readable and stimulating book."
Brakke's fifth book, Religion and the Self in Antiquity, which he edited with Michael L. Satlow and Steven Weitzman, was published in 2005. The book evolved from a 2003 conference that was held at Indiana University. The title of the book is relatively straight-forward, and the collected essays therein attempt to define the nature of the self and how religion figures into that definition. Joseph F. Kelly, reviewing the book in Theological Studies, stated: "Although too advanced for undergraduates, the collection can inform both the scholar and the graduate student." Indeed, Kelly was highly impressed by the book, commenting: "Suffice it to say that this is a fine collection, and that some of these articles will guide future research into the ancient concept of the self."
Brakke is the sole author of his seventh book, Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity, which was published in 2006. The book is an examination of monastic sources, mainly Egyptian, from the fourth and fifth centuries, particularly in regards to the interplay between monks and demonic forces. The volume then explores what these texts reveal about monks and their ethical, spiritual, and philosophical beliefs regarding everything from the day-today aspects of life to sexuality to communion with God.
Demons and the Making of the Monk was widely reviewed and met with critical acclaim. Brakke's analysis, both cultural and literary, was particularly remarked upon. For instance, Teresa M. Shaw, reviewing the book in Church History, commented that "any analysis of demons in literature demands that the author consider carefully the available theoretical and methodological tools." And, according to Shaw, Brakke does so. Indeed, Shaw went on to note that "Brakke's study is learned, broad, and provocative" because Brakke does not "oversimplify the role of the demonic by an anachronistic application of either contemporary psychological or anthropological analysis." Adding that "Brakke allows the texts to represent their own authors, contexts, and concerns," Shaw stated that Demons and the Making of the Monk "brings important distinctions to the surface, in particular regarding key ascetic and historical concepts." Ultimately, Shaw concluded that the book is "clearly written and accessible enough to be a valuable addition to a course on asceticism." All in all, Shaw found the book to be "so deeply scholarly and informed that historians in the field will want this resource in their libraries."
Yet another laudatory assessment came from Joseph F. Kelly, again writing in Theological Studies. After giving a brief overview of the book and Brakke's arguments, Kelly stated that "specialists may know much of what [Brakke] relates." Nevertheless, the critic felt that "all readers must be impressed with the book's organization and thoroughness." Kelly concluded that Demons and the Making of the Monk is a "fine general account of Egyptian monasticism [that] can aid both scholar and student."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, December 1, 2006, David N. Bell, review of Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity, p. 1636; June 1, 2007, James E. Goehring, review of Religion and the Self in Antiquity, p. 962.
Catholic Biblical Quarterly, October 1, 2006, Catherine M. Chin, review of Religion and the Self in Antiquity, p. 795.
Church History, June 1, 1997, Joseph W. Trigg, review of Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism, p. 308; March 1, 2006, Catherine M. Chin, review of Reading in Christian Communities: Essays on Interpretation in the Early Church, p. 170; December 1, 2006, Teresa M. Shaw, review of Demons and the Making of the Monk, p. 887.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, January 1, 1997, T.D. Barnes, review of Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism, p. 136; April 1, 2004, Peter Widdicombe, review of Reading in Christian Communities, p. 337.
Journal of Religion, April 1, 1997, Richard Valantasis, review of Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism, p. 292; July 1, 2007, Elizabeth A. Castelli, review of Demons and the Making of the Monk, p. 437.
Journal of Theological Studies, October 1, 1996, Peter Widdicombe, review of Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism, p. 678; April 1, 2007, Tim Vivian, review of Demons and the Making of the Monk, p. 314.
Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2008, review of Beyond Reception: Mutual Influences between Antique Religion, Judaism, and Early Christianity.
Theological Studies, March 1, 2007, Joseph F. Kelly, review of Demons and the Making of the Monk, p. 214; June 1, 2007, Joseph F. Kelly, review of Religion and the Self in Antiquity, p. 437.
Theology, March 1, 1997, Rowan Williams, review of Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism.
Theology Today, October 1, 2006, Iain Torrance, review of Demons and the Making of the Monk, p. 422.
Indiana University Web site,http://www.indiana.edu/ (May 20, 2008), author profile and autobiography.