Defending the Faith
John Jewel and the Elizabethan Church
Edited by Angela Ranson, André A. Gazal, and Sarah Bastow
Pennsylvania State University Press. Pp. 342. $129.95


Review by Richard J. Mammana

John Jewel (1522-71) was just 37 when he became Bishop of Salisbury. A colleague of Cranmer and Ridley, Jewel traveled widely in conversation with Reformation leaders in Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy. His 1562 treatise Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae, usually translated as The Apology of the Church of England, became a foundational text for Anglican theology in its statement of clear positions on disputed matters. Richard Hooker, whom Jewel had taught as a boy, wrote that his teacher was the “worthiest divine that Christendom hath bred for some hundreds of years.”

Notwithstanding a primary importance in Anglican literature and the status of his major work as a seminary text in the centuries since his death, Jewel has been eclipsed in the last century by his student Hooker as well as by larger schools of thought: the Caroline Divines, Oxford Movement writers, Nonjurors and Latitudinarians, and 19th-century evangelicals. The most recent edition of the Apology is John Booty’s 1963 work for the Folger Library, and Jewel’s name is hardly known today outside of the confines of Reformation survey courses for theological students.

Thirteen scholars working in four countries come together in this volume to offer fresh looks at Jewel’s life, works, and subsequent influence. Their essays were delivered in 2014 at a conference in Salisbury marking the 450th anniversary of the Apology’s first publication in Latin (the best-known English translation is the 1564 version by Anne Cooke Bacon, mother of Francis Bacon).

Some of the strongest contributions are the work of Alice Ferron on the translations and writings of women during the English Reformations, and Ian Atherton’s brief but excellent examination of the place of cathedrals in a Reformed, Protestant, and Catholic national church. Joshua Rodda’s essay on “The Role of the Antagonist in the English Church” is also helpful in a field of writing that involves responses to treatises, responses to responses, and rebuttals to, or refutations of, said responses.

Paul Hartog makes an important foray into Jewel’s use of patristic material in his chapter on the epistles of St. Ignatius and the development of theories about episcopacy in the Elizabethan Church of England. Andrew Atherstone’s valuable contribution looks at the recent reception of Jewel as an iconic and inspirational figure for Anglican political and devotional life in the Bishop Jewel Society at Oxford between 1947 and 1975.

Even as Jewel’s writings become more accessible through digital scholarship, it is hard to imagine a real revival of broad interest in his seminal works. But his planting of the idea in early Anglophone theology that all doctrine should be proved from “scripture, some old doctour, or sum ancient councell” remains a touchstone. Defending the Faithis a good reminder of a landmark in Anglican theological writing and its continuing importance.

Richard J. Mammana is the archivist of the Living Church Foundation.

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