After considerable technical difficulty arising from the lack of fit between our projection equipment and Orlando’s movie as formatted, we managed to find a way to screen “A Polite Bribe” last Friday afternoon here in New College. (It appears that our projection equipment is a bit too old for the type of formats he uses.) Thanks to one of our PhD students with a spiffy, up-to-date laptop, however, we were able to get it going.
As mentioned in previous postings, the film (ca. 85 minutes length) narrates the life of Paul as apostle, with lots of “talking heads” comments by a galaxy of scholars (some of them obviously enjoying a lot the chance to perform before a camera!). The focus, however, is on the tensions between Paul and Jerusalem believers over the terms on which gentile believers in Jesus were to be treated as full co-religionists by Jewish believers.
Some in the Jerusalem church insisted that gentiles should effectively complete their profession of faith by adopting Jewishness also, involving a commitment to Jewish Torah-observance in addition to their faith in Jesus. Paul, however, insisted equally firmly that this was wrong-headed, and that, instead, God was now welcoming gentiles into Abraham’s family as gentiles, without them having to become Jewish.
Paul could be quite pointed in his view of those Jewish believers who demanded that gentile believers “Judaize”: e.g., calling them “false brothers” (Gal. 2:4), and (mockingly) “super apostles” (2 Cor. 11:5) and (quite bitterly) “false apostles, deceitful workers” and even ministers of Satan (2 Cor. 11:13-15). We should, thus, suppose that these people likely referred to him in negative terms too, which must have helped to generate Paul’s own ire toward them.
But Paul was also obviously concerned to maintain a genuine mutual recognition and acceptance between him and his churches on the one hand and the Jerusalem leaders and Judean churches on the other hand. The largest indication of this was his prolonged project to take up a financial collection from his churches that would be presented to the Jerusalem church, as an expression of religious solidarity. Paul refers to this project in several letters (1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:1–9:15; Rom. 15:22-33; and, as I hold, also in Gal. 2:10), indicating how much it meant to him. He likely spent several years on the project. It is intriguing that in his final reference to it, in Romans 15:22-33, he expresses some anxiety over what may happen when he goes with the offering to Jerusalem.
The “unbelievers in Judea” (or “disobedient ones,” ἀπειθούντων) were likely Jewish religious zealots who rejected the gospel (similarly to his own zealous opposition to Judean churches prior to the “revelation” that turned him around). But Paul’s anxiety included also worry that his “service for Jerusalem” might not be accepted by the church there. The reason for this is that acceptance of the offering would mean the Jerusalem church accepting fully Paul’s churches, and Paul’s gentile mission. Given the tensions in the Jerusalem church at that time, Paul didn’t know what the outcome would be.
I won’t spoil the film for you by giving out too much more about the line taken in it. But it does serve to underscore the tensions in earliest Christian circles over the terms of gentile inclusion into the early Jesus-movement, and over Paul in particular. The film takes a particular line on some matters, expressing (in my view) more confidence in some things than may be warranted. But it certainly makes vivid the figure of Paul and the issues that he faced.
The film will likely provoke some good questions, and is best shown with an opportunity for discussion after the screening (preferably with one or more competent to offer informed comment). One question that emerged in our screening illustrated how the film can be used to teach: One person in our audience expressed puzzlement that the film portrayed Paul in conflict with, and in danger from, some who were effectively fellow “Christians,” whereas the questioner thought that Paul’s conflict was with “Jews”.
This afforded the opportunity to clarify some important things. Among them, Paul was, and remained, a Jew in his ethnic identity, and the Jerusalem believers likewise were Jews, who continued to identify themselves as members of their nation. Of course, Paul and Jerusalem believers were absolutely convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, and that confessing him as God’s Messiah and unique “Son” is requisite of all, including fellow Jews. But their Jesus-devotion didn’t erase their self-identity as Jews as well. As for Paul, his repeated willingness to submit to synagogue floggings (2 Cor. 11:24) powerfully demonstrated his determination to remain a member of his nation, and makes his professions of concern about the rejection of the gospel by fellow Jews in Romans 9–11 entirely genuine.
As I’ve indicated, among fellow Jewish believers-in-Jesus were some who regarded Paul’s gentile mission as wrong-headed and against what they saw as scriptural teaching and God’s purposes. Indeed, they may also have feared that Paul’s gentile mission would exacerbate (for them) tensions with the larger Jewish community in a period when religious-zealot attitudes seem to have been hardening.
So, all in all, for “lay” viewers, “A Polite Bribe” can be an informative and provocative film. It will certainly help today’s Christians to realize that sharply different views of God’s purposes, different theological perspectives among Christians, are nothing new!
We’ll screen the provocative film about the Apostle Paul, “A Polite Bribe: An Apostle’s Final Bid,” here in New College, Friday 7 March, 4 pm (Martin Hall). Admission free.
There will be a discussion following the film, involving the director/writer/producer, Rob Orlando, my NT colleague Dr. Matt Novenson, and yours truly.
I’ve mentioned the film in one or two previous blog-posts. It combines a dramatic storyline focused on Paul’s apostolic mission and his concerns to maintain some kind of unity between Jerusalem/Jewish believers and his (largely) gentile churches with numerous short clips featuring a galaxy of scholars expressing views on various matters connected with the narrative. The climactic element is Paul’s last journey to Jerusalem with the financial collection gathered from his churches as an offering to the Jerusalem church.
I just learned today that one of my articles submitted last year and accepted for publication in Expository Times has in fact appeared in an online version (the “print” version to appear in a future issue of the journal). Indeed, it was published in this online form back in 2013, but, somehow, I didn’t know/notice. Seems that the publisher, Sage, has this two-stage arrangement (and I’m catching up on the technology).
Anyway, the article, “Revelatory Experience and Religious Innovation in Earliest Christianity,” can be read here.
The article derives from a lecture that I gave in Rice University last year. In an earlier posting I gave a summary here.
The respected German publisher, Walter de Gruyter, has just launched a new online peer-reviewed journal in the field of Theology/Religion: Open Theology. As a member of the editorial board, I join with colleagues in welcoming submissions from scholars. The scope of the journal is broad, including pretty much all religious movements, phenomena and scholarly approaches.
For more information, consult the web-page here.
Well, it seems that my earlier posting (here) questioning the characterization of ancient Christian “gnostics” as “intellectuals” (in the recent “Bible Hunters” programme) has drawn a lot of interest . . . and controversy. I note, in particular, that my long-time friend, April DeConick, has weighed in challenging my posting here.
I will return her compliment, in affirming her as a long-time friend, and I acknowledge her as an impressive scholar in the field of ancient “gnostic” texts and versions of early Christianity. In offering the following response to her critique, my purpose is not rebuttal, but a productive public dialogue.
First, granted, depending on who you include in that dubious label “gnostics”, you can point to people who seem to have been impressive in learning and intelligence. I certainly didn’t mean to say that all those who might be labelled “gnostics” were stupid! Those DeConick cites are good examples. But part of the problem here is the term “gnostic(s)/gnosticism.” With Michael Williams (Rethinking “Gnosticism”), I find the term “gnostics” very slippery and used so diversely as to make it less than useful as a scholarly category. Hence my placing it in scare-quotes.
I prefer to restrict myself to those whom he characterizes as expressing “demiurgical” traditions: That is, those who specifically distinguished between the high/ultimate deity and the creator-deity (the “demiurge”, whom they often characterized as evil), and who typically had accompanying elaborate myths of emanations, etc. If we take that definition, it’s not that clear (at least to me) how many of those April lists really fit.
Ptolemy’s “Letter to Flora” (to cite one of April’s examples) is a gem of a kind of “sweet reasonableness,” to be sure. But, as April will know, it’s not really clear/agreed that Ptolemy should be classified as a “gnostic” (it all depends on which modern-day scholar uses the term and with what meaning). He may have been a kind of moderate “Valentinian,” but were “Valentinians” really all “gnostics”? You see the problem. Also, by the way, it’s not even clear how much we can say about some of those whom April lists, e.g., Basilides, as there are scant remains of whatever they may have said/written. So, to some extent, April and I are arguing past each other, at least to my mind.
There is also a question of what one designates an “intellectual”. In my posting, I proposed that the term better applied to those early Christians who, e.g., (1) strove to articulate their faith-stance in terms that might be made meaningful openly to the wider public, including those of more philosophical training, and (2) offered reasoned defences of Christian faith in the arena of public discourse (and to the political authorities). I listed some prime examples of such people in my earlier posting.
By contrast, it’s not clear to me that works such as “The Apocryphon of John” were ever intended to be understood by anyone outside the loose circle/network of people keen on such esoterica.
Even in the case of the “Gospel of Thomas” (and, here again, scholars dispute whether this text is “gnostic”, but it’s certainly got a strong esoteric character), I submit that we have a text that was not intended to promote open and intelligent dialogue and debate, not intended to communicate a faith-stance openly and in terms that could be engaged by a wider public.
Plotinus may well have met a few Christian “gnostics” (although we are dependent on Porphyry for this claim), but the preserved remnants of his refutation don’t identify those he refutes as Christian or gnostics, but, instead unidentified people who make the creator-deity evil and the his world evil. That might well have included some “demiurgical” Christians, but it’s hard to say for sure. In any case, Plotinus is hardly evidence of any significant public impact of Christian “gnostics”.
So, yes, my friend April is right in pointing to some ancient Christians who seem to have been very literate and intelligent and whose ideas were judged by others dubious, and so came to be labelled “heretical”, and classified by some scholars “gnostics”. My intended point in my posting was that what distinguished the sort of “gnostics” cited in the “Bible Hunters” programme wasn’t a greater intelligence, but, instead, a tendency toward esoterica, and (in some cases) a kind of self-regarding elitism, with a certain implicit disdain for ordinary Christian beliefs and Christians of the time.
And I also reiterate that the more serious critiques of early Christianity (e.g., Celsus, Lucian) seem to show that what these “pagan” intellectuals found a sufficient threat (or nuisance) to demand their attention seems to have been more familiar forms of Christianity, suggesting that “gnostic” versions either weren’t all that well circulated/known by these critics, or weren’t regarded as much of a threat.
And I reiterate my claim that those who seem to me to fit the category “early Christian intellectuals” are the sort of people named in my earlier posting, who sought to articulate their beliefs and defend them in the public arena, engaging their intellectual, political and social environment.
Various commenters have inquired about the study of ancient papyri in response to earlier postings here, some asking why, for example, the Oxyrhynchus papyri are taking so long to appear, along with other questions. I thought it would be helpful to mention a splendid resource for becoming acquainted with the field of papyrology, what’s involved, where it stands, and its future:
The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology, ed. Roger S. Bagnall (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). It’s now available in paperback, which will make it more affordable to ordinary mortals (and not simply Russian oligarchs, for whom too many scholarly books seem to be priced).
The multi-author volume includes chapter-length contributions on many matters, among them, ”The Conservation of ancient Papyrus Materials” (Jaakko Froesen), “Editing a Papyrus” (Paul Schubert), and “The Future of Papyrology” (Peter van Minnen), these contributions particularly helpful for understanding the mechanics of the field, what’s involved in bringing papyri to publication.
In addition, there are informative discussions of numerous other matters. To select a few, “The Ancient Book” (William A. Johnson), “The Special Case of Herculaneum” (David Sider), “Education in the Papyri” (Raffaella Cribiore), “Egyptian Religion and Magic in the Papyri” (Willy Clarysse), “The Papyri and Early Christianity” (David Martinez), and “Manichaeism and Gnosticism in the Papyri” (Cornelia Roemer). Plus a number of other impressive topics addressed.
And to grasp something of the perils that papyri go through en route to getting into the hands of scholars, have a look at The Story of the Bodmer Papyri, by James M. Robinson (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011). Robinson shows how locals who find a cache of papyri will partition rolls and codices, resulting in portions of the same book being purchased and held in various libraries across the world. So, e.g., portions of the “Bodmer” papyri (i.e., items acquired by the Bodmer Library near Geneva) are also held in the Chester Beatty Library, the University of Cologne, the Vatican Library, Duke University, the Fundacio sant Lluc Evangelista of Barcelona, a rare book dealer (H. P. Kraus in New York), and a consortium in Vaduz, Liechtenstein.
It’s also fascinating to read Robinson’s account of the acquisition of the Bodmer Papyri (pp. 35-47), which reads like a cross between an espionage novel with bits of Indiana Jones thrown in. Or read Robinson’ account of the discovery and sale of the “Dishna Papers” (108-29), which will give you shudders at the way the material was treated prior to acquisition.
Another feature of the “Bible Hunters” programme (part 2) that caught my attention was the reference to ancient “gnostic” Christians as “intellectuals.” That was very funny, really. Just read the relevant texts, which are readily available in English translation: James M. Robinson (ed.), The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 3rd rev. ed. (Leiden/New York: Brill, 1988)
It’s perhaps a natural mistake for people who haven’t read the texts, given that “gnostic” comes from the Greek word “gnosis”, which means “knowledge.” But in the case of those called “gnostics,” the kind of “knowledge” that they sought wasn’t “intellectual,” but (to put it kindly) what we might term “esoteric,” secretive truths expressed typically in cryptic, riddling form, deliberately intended to make little sense as expressed. Put unkindly, one might characterize it as a bunch of “mumbo-jumbo” with no attempt to present them reasonably and in terms of the intellectual climate of the time.
But there was substance. They tended, for example, to project the view that the world and all therein was evil, deceptive, ensnaring, and so to be rejected or at least minimized so far as possible. So, e.g., women were to avoid giving birth, as this only imprisoned souls in this mire. Instead, they were to “become male” and cease “the work of women,” i.e., live celibate. (Hardly the elevation of women some people erroneously ascribe to “gnostic” circles.)
Their aim and approach, however, wasn’t “intellectual.” They didn’t seek to understand through inquiry and argumentation. They didn’t seek to project and commend their views through patient exposition, argumentation, and the exercise of rational thinking. These were people who may well have imagined that they had some sort of superiority spiritually, i.e., he sort of souls (and they were really interested only in their souls) that regarded themselves as by nature more attuned to divine things perhaps, certainly superior to “mere” Christians.
For them, the ordinary beliefs/claims of Christian faith seemed . . . too elemental, even foolish. ”God so loved the world,” “Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our salvation,” etc., these all apparently seemed . . . well, dull. It appears that ordinary Christian ideas just didn’t tickle their fancy, didn’t scratch their itch. They needed something more titillating in their view. They seem to have thought, “This can’t be it. There must be some secretive truths that we alone are worthy to find.”
If you want what we would recognize as people trying to act like “intellectuals,” you’ll have to read writers such as Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Tatian, Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Origen (to stay with the early ones). These guys worked hard to formulate and express their faith in terms that could be engaged by others, especially non-Christians. Justin’s Dialogue, for example portrays an extended argument with Jewish interlocutors. His Apology was directed at the larger intellectual and political elite, seeking to justify Christian faith in terms that they could understand and engage.
Justin and the other “apologists” (from the Greek “apologia” = defence) may well have over-estimated their powers of persuasion and may well have presumed a larger readership than they actually obtained (something that academic authors often tend to do, or so I’m told by publishers). But they were the closest to “intellectuals” that the early churches had to offer.
And if you take account of those “pagan” critics, such as Celsus, it’s quite clear that they were attempting to refute and overturn the sort of “ordinary” Christianity that people such as Justin and the others affirmed. I know of no pagan critique of “gnostic” Christianity. And the reasons are likely that the “gnostic” texts never circulated outside the somewhat selective networks for which they were written, and had they been read by pagans they would have been regarded as so much . . . well, mumbo-jumbo that you couldn’t really get a handle on, and that probably wasn’t worth the effort.
There are modern equivalents to the ancient “gnostics,” people who go for the esoteric, who imagine themselves “special” in some way, such that, without the sort of academic training most of us think necessary, they can leap into some mystical “truths.” Just go to the average bookshop and scan the “religion & magic” section (yeah, I know, “religion & magic,” says it all). You’ll likely find many (perhaps most on the shelves) catering to such tastes and positing such ideas. (If you’d like a great send-up of all this, I heartily recommend Umberto Eco’s novel, Foucault’s Pendulum. Apparently, when Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code subsequently appeared, and Eco was asked what he thought of the book, he reportedly replied, “Dan Brown is a character in my novel!”)
If you want to assess the efforts of the real early Christian “intellectuals,” the original texts in English translation are freely available in the Ante-Nicene Fathers series. For a stimulating study of their efforts, I recommend Eric Osborn, The Emergence of Christian Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).
The second (final) programme in the “Bible Hunters” production aired here in the UK last night, and, as I suspected focused on the discovery of various extra-canonical texts. The discovery of any early text is cause to be grateful, and the discovery of any early copy of a Christian text (biblical or not) likewise (or even more so for scholars in Christian origins).
So, to be sure, the fragments of extra-canonical texts turned up by Grenfell & Hunt at Oxyrhynchus in the late 19th century, and the more substantial cache of writings found at Nag Hammadi in 1946 are rightly to be seen as important. The Nag Hammadi texts in particular confirm the vigorous text-producing nature of ancient Christianity, and its theological diversity as well.
But I have to say that I found it strange that some really crucial (arguably more important) manuscripts finds were totally ignored. If we’re talking about “Bible Hunters” and the attendant concern for early manuscripts that may tell us something about the Bible, I think that the programme missed the boat entirely.
In fact, with all due gratitude to those 19th century and early 20th century figures mentioned in the first programme (Tischendorf, the Smith sisters, and also Freer), the 20th century was the time when perhaps the most spectacular biblical manuscript finds appeared. Certainly, spectacularly early in comparison with anything available previously. Here are the “biggies”.
We can start with the fabulous collection of biblical codices acquired by Chester Beatty (now housed in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle). For a generally accurate and brief introduction the Wikipedia entry can be read here. First announced in late 1931, over the ensuing years the eleven codices were edited and published in a series that included both photographic facsimiles and transcriptions (with introductions and analyses). The codices include 3rd century CE Greek copies of Paul’s letters, the four Gospels and Acts, and Revelation. The great F. G. Kenyon handled the NT volumes. In addition, there are (Greek) copies of Genesis, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Esther, dated variously to the 2nd-3rd century CE.
So far as NT studies are concerned, the Chester Beatty papyri were of monumental importance, and remain so. Earlier scholars had been pleased to have copies of NT writings as early as the 4th century (Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus). But the Chester Beatty papyri took scholars back to the early 3rd century, well before Constantine, Nicaea, and to a time when Christianity was still fighting for its life, well before a NT canon had been fixed.
The Chester Beatty gospels codex (“P45″ in the reference scheme used by NT textual critics) contains the four canonical gospels and the book of Acts. The gospels are in the “Western” order: Matthew, John, Luke, Mark. And it’s very interesting that Acts in included with the four gospels (whereas its more familiar location in early manuscripts was with the so-called “catholic/general” epistles). Although a NT canon wasn’t yet closed, this codex suggests that by its date (ca. mid-3rd century CE) the four gospels were a closed circle, at least for many Christians.
The Chester Beatty Paul codex (“P46″), early 3rd century CE, is our earliest example of a collection of Pauline epistles. We know that there were collections circulating much earlier (as reflected in 2 Peer 3:15-16), but in P46 we have copies phenomenally early.
Just about contemporary with the Nag Hammadi discovery in the late 1940s was the find of hundreds of manuscripts at Qumran, the so-called “Dead Sea Scrolls.” These manuscripts date variously from the 2nd-1st century BCE, and were copied and read by devout Jews (often thought to have formed a sect whose base was at Qumran). The Qumran manuscripts give us copies of OT writings in Hebrew ca. 1,000 years earlier than what had been available. Even though the cache includes no NT or Christian writings, the Qumran manuscripts are of unsurpassed importance for anyone concerned with the textual history of the OT writings and/or the religious context of Jesus and earliest Christianity.
For NT textual history, however, there was more to come. Beginning in 1954, the Bodmer Papyri began to be published. Two in particular have rightly received enormous attention. P.Bodmer II (or “P66″ in NT textual parlance) gives us a substantially preserved copy of the Gospel of John, and is palaeographically dated to the early 3rd century CE. P.Bodmer XIV-XV (“P75″) gives us substantially preserved copies of the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John, also dated about as early (ca. 175-225 CE). (For a brief description click here.)
One of the things shown by the Bodmer papyri is that the textual copying tradition reflected in Codex Vaticanus (mid-4th century CE) is clearly attested already by ca. 200 CE (and likely much earlier). This copying tradition seems to reflect a concern for careful copying, with no evidence of substantial variants (either of omission or addition).
To be brief, one net effect of the biblical manuscripts discovered in the 20th century was to provide a much earlier and much more secure basis for textual criticism of the OT and the NT writings. So, contrary to the narrative pursued in the “Bible Hunters” programme (despite my attempt to warn them off), for anyone in “the know”, the 20th century was a time of discoveries that actually enhanced our ability to chart the textual transmission of the biblical writings. Whether one treats them as “scripture” and whether one assents to faith in what the NT writings project is another question. But the fabulous finds gave scholars a massively enhanced knowledge of the early textual history of these writings.
Oh, and one more point relating to the “Bible Hunters” programme. Despite all that talk of writings that were “excluded” from the NT, such as the Nag Hammadi texts, there is actually no evidence that the authors of these texts ever sought to have them included! Indeed, to judge from the highly esoteric and sectarian nature of the writings, it is highly unlikely that the authors would have been happy to have these writings lumped in with the various writings that came to be included in the NT. These so-called “gnostic” texts seem to reflect an elitist stance, the authors and intended readers treated as “special”, superior even to other garden-variety Christians. These texts profess to give “secret” teachings that were withheld from mere Christians, and given only to the special person (Thomas, Philip, Mary) posited (fictionally) as the favoured recipient.
As Fred Wisse suggested decades ago, it seems more likely that these texts didn’t really function as the “scriptures” of “gnostic” groups/churches (and weren’t intended so), but instead were probably passed from hand to hand among individuals who liked esoterica and may have thought of themselves as some kind of superior type of Christian.
To return to manuscripts of biblical writings, they continue to appear. In the last few decades, for example, fragments of a number of early copies of NT writings have been published in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series, some of these palaeographically dated to the early 3rd or even late 2nd century CE. And, given that only about 1% of the estimated body of Oxyrhynchus papyri has been published at this point, who knows what more lies in the vaults awaiting someone with the skills to identify and edit it?
On Oxyrhynchus, see the conference volume: A. K. Bowman et al., eds., Oxyrhynchus: A City and Its Texts (London: Egypt Exploration Society, 2007). On its relevance for NT textual criticism:
Eldon Jay Epp, “The Oxyrhynchus New Testament Papyri: ‘Not Without Honor Except in Their Hometown’?,” Journal of Biblical Literature 123 (2004): 5-55 (but his list of NT papyri is already out of date).
In the post today I received a copy of a review of my book, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (Eerdmans, 2006), the (generous-sized) review published in Bibliotheca Orientalis 70 (2013): 3-4. It is a bit of a surprise to have a review just appearing, given that my book was published in 2006. But I have to say it’s very nice to have such a positive review (by Jürgen K. Zangenberg, Leiden University Institute for Religious Studies).
Zangenberg affirms my emphasis in the book that earliest Christian manuscripts offer valuable data beyond the texts that they contain for wider historical questions about early Christianity, agreeing that these manuscripts should be regarded “on equal level with archaeological finds and objects,” as direct evidence of the “visual and material culture” of early Christianity. He accurately summarizes the contents and main lines of argument of the book, noting rightly that it draws on earlier scholars (e.g., Erich Dinkler, Eric Turner, C.H. Roberts, Kurt Treu, Harry Gamble, Robert Kraft, Eldon Epp, and numerous others, including more younger people such as Kim Haines-Eitzen) as well as my own investigations.
Given the effort that went into the book, it’s very encouraging to read that Zangerberg regards it “one of the most important recent books in the field of early Christian codicology,” and “simply a must for everybody interested in early Christianity and the New Testament!” Even if the review came out seven years after the book was published, it’s still nice to have it. (And this illustrates how long it can take for the scholarly world to take account of, and form a judgement of, a scholarly book. As someone one said of God’s wheels of justice, the scholarly assessment of a work can grind slowly.)
The Martin Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise offers awards for the first book by emergent scholars in any facet of Theology & Religious Studies. The award includes a substantial cash amount (for travel expenses for giving lectures in colleges/universities), and a free trip to Heidelberg for the annual awards ceremony. Several awards are made each year.
The deadline for the 2015 awards looms (30 April 2014), and I encourage those who have published their first academic book to consider applying. The key criterion is that the book be judged to have made a substantial and distinctive contribution to knowledge/understanding in its subject.
For further information please also see the webpage here.