Marquette profs submit works to theology book

Three Marquette theology professors have been selected to contribute to a new book from the publishing arm of Oxford University.

Ralph Del Colle, Rev. Michael Fahey and Rev. David Coffey will all be contributing chapters to the Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, a 38-chapter text due out in December 2006, according to Lucy Qureshi, the handbook's editor.

Coffey will write on the Trinity. Fahey will elaborate on the sacraments and Del Colle's chapter is on the church.

Oxford Press selected contributors to the book based on their expertise in their subject matter, according to Qureshi.

"All the individuals who were asked to contribute are leading scholars in their fields," Qureshi said. "When choosing someone to write on a particular aspect of the subject, we went to the top."

All chapters will be 7,500 words – a length called "short" by Fahey.

The professors were invited to contribute to the handbook about two years ago, but the project was delayed when the original editor left the project for a promotion to Princeton Theological Seminary, according to Fahey. Now the project is back on track, and the chapters are due Aug. 31, 2005.

The professors have not yet seen their contracts, but Fahey said the letter of invitation acts as a "gentleman's agreement."

Coffey said he did not know how much he and his fellow professors were getting paid, but wasn't expecting much more than "a few free copies" of the Handbook.

The Oxford University Press is a department of Oxford University, considered the United Kingdom's equivalent to Harvard, and so maintains a sterling reputation among the academic community.

"Oxford University Press has a high reputation, a premiere reputation in the field" of theology, Coffey said.

All three professors said they were honored to be asked to contribute to the handbook.

"I'm now in my 70s," Fahey said, "and I've done this work for over 30 years. I've published in Canada and Europe, but I'm still very honored."

"I'm very pleased to be able to do this because it means our work will reach a wider readership," Coffey said.

That three members of Marquette's theology faculty were asked to contribute to the Oxford publication is an honor if not a surprise, according to the Rev. John D. Laurance, acting chair of the theology department.

"The Oxford University Press certainly has its antennae out to recognize outstanding theologians," Laurance said. "We're not surprised, but we know that these people are first-magnitude theologians."