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Fall 1995 · Vol. 24 No. 2 · pp. 107–8 

Book Review

Saint John of the Cross: From Anabaptist Spirituality

Hugo Zorrilla. Fresno, CA: Hugo Zorrilla C, 1993. 112 pages.

Reviewed by Bruce Entz

In addition to missionary, pastoral, and professional experience, Hugo Zorrilla received a Bachelor of Theology from the Latin America Biblical Seminary in San Jose, Costa Rica, a Master's degree in New Testament from Trinity Divinity School, a Bachelor’s degree in Classical Philosophy from the University of Costa Rica, and a Doctorate in Theology from the Pontifical University of Salamanca, Spain.

A major purpose of this work is to compare the spirituality of Saint John of the Cross (1542-91) to that of Anabaptism. The first half of the book describes sixteenth-century Spanish spirituality generally, explaining its development in conjunction with Spanish biblicism, the thought of Cardinal Francisco Ximenez de Cisneros, and especially Erasmus, including specific sections dealing with the latter’s views on scripture, prayer, free will, etc.

A subsequent chapter entitled “The Radical Spirituality” specifically deals with Miguel Servet, Juan de Valdes, and Juan Luis Vives. The author continues with an analysis of spirituality in Spanish poetry, including the times of Charles V and Philip II, followed by a consideration of “Anabaptist Spirituality,” concentrating on Hans Denck.

A final section of the book, devoted more specifically to John, begins with background information regarding his education, monastic leadership, and the transitory and difficult nature of his life. Considerable attention to John’s poetry follows, including extensive English translations accompanying Spanish texts from “The Spiritual Canticle,” “The Dark Night,” “The Living Flame of Love,” “Stanzas of the Soul that Languishes to See God,” and “Stanzas by the same author concerning an ecstasy in high contemplation.”

Generalizations (e.g., “In spite of his humiliations, of his persecutors trying to expel him from the Order, of his illness, he never complained or sought revenge,” p. 55) may give the work somewhat of a storybook quality. Perhaps unfortunately, some who could benefit from this research cannot read its original Spanish text. One surmises that spelling and grammatical errors, as well as other scholarly losses, resulted from the work’s translation into English. The lack of more gender-neutral language may also distract some.

Enhancing the book’s appeal to a broader audience may be its information relating to the historical development of issues like mental versus written or recited prayers. This work provides credence for the often {108} overlooked ecumenical nature of early Anabaptism in relation to Catholic and Islamic thought.

Bruce Entz
Director of Learning Resources
Tabor College
Hillsboro, Kansas

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