Davies, Oliver 1956-
DAVIES, Oliver 1956-
Born 1956. Education: Earned M.A.; received D.Phil. from Oxford University; holds postgraduate certificate of education.
Office—Department of Theology, Religious Studies, and Islamic Studies, University of Wales, Lampeter, Ceredigion SA48 7ED, Wales. E-mail—[email protected]
University of Wales, Lampeter, reader in systematic theology.
God Within: The Mystical Tradition of Northern Europe, foreword by Rowan Williams, Paulist Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Meister Eckhart: Mystical Theologian, SPCK (London, England), 1991.
Celtic Christianity in Early Medieval Wales: The Origins of the Welsh Spiritual Tradition, University of Wales Press (Cardiff, Wales), 1996.
A Theology of Compassion: Metaphysics of Difference and the Renewal of Tradition, William B. Eerdmans Publishing (Grand Rapids, MI), 2003.
(Translator) Beguine Spirituality: Mystical Writings of Mechthild of Magdeburg, Beatrice of Nazareth, and Hadewijch of Brabant, edited and introduced by Fiona Bowie, Crossroad (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor, translator, and author of introduction) The Rhineland Mystics: Writings of Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler, and Jan van Ruusbroec and Selections from the "Theologica Germanica" and the "Book of Spiritual Poverty," Crossroad (New York, NY), 1990.
(Editor and author of introduction, with Fiona Bowie) Mystical Writings, with new translations by Robert Carver, Crossroad (New York, NY), 1990.
(Editor) Gateway to Paradise: Basil the Great, translation by Tim Witherow, introduction by A. M. Allchin, New City Press (Brooklyn, NY), 1991.
(Editor) Born to New Life, translation by Tim Witherow, introduction by Cyprian Smith, New City Press (New Rochelle, NY), 1992.
(Editor and translator, with Alun Idris Jones) Promise of Good Things: The Apostolic Fathers, introduction by Sheila Cassidy, New City Press (New Rochelle, NY), 1993.
(Selector and translator) Selected Writings, Penguin (New York, NY), 1994.
(Editor, with Fiona Bowie) Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources, Continuum (New York, NY), 1999.
(Translator and author of introduction) Celtic Spirituality, with the collaboration of Thomas O'Loughlin, preface by James Mackey, Paulist Press (New York, NY), 1999.
(Editor, with Denys Turner) Silence and the Word: Negative Theology and Incarnation, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor of translations to "The Realm of Metaphysics in the Modern Age," Volume 5 of The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, 1993.
A senior lecturer in systematic theology at the University of Wales, Oliver Davies has research interests in postmodernity and Christian theology, medieval mysticism, and Celtic Christianity. His writings include publications on Meister Eckhart, apophatic mysticism, and the renewal of metaphysics. Davies has also worked extensively as an editor and translator, in many cases publishing the first translations of early Celtic Christian texts. While many of his books are suited to a scholarly audience, these translations have a growing audience of nonspecialist readers interested in Celtic spirituality.
In God Within: The Mystical Tradition of Northern Europe, Davies discusses three forms of mysticism: sacramental, visionary, and apophatic, as developed within Germany, the Low Countries, and England. Special attention is paid to apophatic mysticism, including the "mysticism of being," known as "Wesensmystik." The teachings of Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, van Ruusbroec, Rolle, Hilton, and other mystics are reviewed.
God Within was described by reviewers as including an effective overview as well as possibly contentious analysis of the subject. In the Journal of Religion, Frank Tobin warned of "statements that go beyond what we actually know," making the book "worth reading as an introductory study, but one in need of corrective supplementation." Speculum critic Ritamary Bradley said the book "illustrates the pitfalls of trying to simplify a complex tradition" and recommended its "brief biographical overviews of some selected mystics and speculations about their influence on one another." According to Jonas Barciauskas in Theological Studies, "Not every reader may agree with [Davies's] opinion that apophatic mysticism is the most universal." Basciauskas concluded, "This volume is well written and researched, and if its particular focus is kept in mind, it can be a fine introduction to a fascinating period in the history of Western spirituality."
Davies returned to the influence of German religious leader (Johannes) Meister Eckhart (c. 1260-1327) in Meister Eckhart: Mystical Theologian. This book was described by John Margetts in the Modern Language Review as "a thoughtful and serious study" that showed "consummate clarity in setting out essentials." In Celtic Christianity in Early Medieval Wales: The Origins of the Welsh Spiritual Tradition, the author considers early Welsh religious literature, including the lives of Celtic saints Samson, Beuno, and David, poetry in the Black Book of Carmarthen, and poetry in the fourteenth-century Book of Taliesin. It was "a welcome introduction to a difficult but rewarding subject," according to Andrew Breeze in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, The critic noted Davies's "wide-ranging" theological knowledge but said "his analysis often fails to convince."
The postmodern rejection of metaphysics is challenged by Davies in A Theology of Compassion: Metaphysics of Difference and the Renewal of Tradition. He argues for the "learning of a new language of being" and a "theology of compassion" that is based on biblical texts and the compassionate responses of Holocaust victims Etty Hillesum and Edith Stein. In a review for the Times Literary Supplement, Andrew Shanks praised the book as "a splendidly ambitious book: simple in conception, complex in execution," but he also noted that it was "a partial account, presented as the whole" because it failed to address the Hegelian idea of free spiritedness. Peter C. Hodgson commented in the Religious Studies Review that the book was "ambitious and wide-ranging" and that "the rich conversations in which the author engages make the work especially valuable for readers."
Among Davies's work as an editor is Gateway to Paradise: Basil the Great, which contains translations of excerpts from On the Holy Spirit and two monastic Rules as well as letters, sermons, discourses, and treatises. In the Religious Studies Review, Dennis D. Martin recommended the book as a chance for readers to "revel in the skill of this ancient and holy rhetorician."
Davies himself served as translator for Celtic Spirituality, a collection of medieval Celtic Christian texts including homilies, hagiographies, and poetry, as well as monastic, devotional, and liturgical texts that were written in Irish, Welsh, and Latin. It is a "superb and thorough collection" according to Catholic Library World's Bridget Matthews-Kane. The "distinctively ardent, earthy" Celtic religious experiences were "a joy to see," said Graham Christian in Library Journal.
As editor with Fiona Bowie, Davies published Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources, which spans the writings of medieval religious poets and essayists and those of contemporary poets and song writers. Twelve centuries of Celtic Christian worship are reflected by the work of those who spoke a Celtic language or were otherwise closely linked to Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Gaelic, or Breton Christian traditions. Writing in America, Michael Downey characterized the book as "a work of up-to-date scholarship pitched to a nonspecialist readership." A Publishers Weekly reviewer judged that the book "offers a new reading of a substantial, alternative model for Christian worship."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, November 4, 1995, Michael Downey, review of Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources, p. 30.
Catholic Library World, June, 2002, Bridget Matthews-Kane, review of Celtic Spirituality, p. 238.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, January, 1998, Andrew Breeze, review of Celtic Christianity in Early Medieval Wales: The Origins of the Welsh Spiritual Tradition, p. 164.
Journal of Religion, October, 1990, Frank Tobin, review of God Within: The Mystical Tradition of Northern Europe, p. 631.
Library Journal, January, 2000, Graham Christian, review of Celtic Spirituality, p. 124.
Modern Language Review, January, 1995, John Margetts, review of Meister Eckhart: Mystical Theologian, pp. 230-231.
Publishers Weekly, September 11, 1995, review of Celtic Christian Spirituality, p. 41.
Reference and Research Book News, November, 2002, review of Silence and the Word: Negative Theology and Incarnation, p. 19.
Religious Studies Review, April, 1990, Dennis D. Martin, review of God Within, pp. 156-157; January, 1993, Dennis D. Martin, review of Gateway to Paradise: Basil the Great, p. 80; October, 2002, Peter C. Hodgson, review of A Theology of Compassion: Metaphysics of Difference and the Renewal of Tradition, pp. 343-344.
Speculum, July, 1990, Ritamary Bradley, review of God Within, pp. 648-650.
Theological Studies December, 1989, Jonas Barciauskas, review of God Within, p. 822.
Times Literary Supplement, September 6, 2002, Andrew Shanks, review of A Theology of Compassion, p. 33.*