Well, after the last post, where I listed a few introductory books on reading the Bible, I was asked by a friend to recommend a few texts for use in a college introduction to the New Testament class. He seemed to like my picks for the Bible overview list, and wondered what we’d suggest for a resasonably sharp collegiate group, or a serious-minded adult Christian ed class.
Well, where does one begin? (And where do I stop?) I put together a list for his particular purposes, at his evangelical college, and wanted to show it here.
First, though, I offer a few more random titles for an introductory reading of the Bible. These aren’t so much on how to read, or a book-by-book handbook, but an introduction to an aspect of Scripture, especially the Older Testament. Or, to be really honest, they are just books I want to tell you about. So here are a few I could have listed last time.
The Burning Word: A Christian Encounter with Jewish Midrash Judith M. Kunst (Paraclete) $15.95. My, my, this is my kind of book—part memoir, telling of a journey of reading, a bit of Jewish-Christian relations stuff, and a whole lot of new insights into the Hebrew Bible. Judith is a good writer, teaches at a respected Christian school, and offers a wonderful bit of writing here. She has become familiar with our work here, too, and we are happy to mention this grand book again. What a rich, imaginative and fun read.
Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith Marvin Wilson (Eerdmans) $20.00 Wilson is a beloved prof at Gordon College and a leading scholar on Christian-Jewish relations; some reviewers have called this “magnificent” “ambitious” and “stunning.” Jews & Christians alike have raved about this powerful and rich book.
Old Testament Turning Points: The Narratives That Shaped a Nation Victor H. Matthews (Baker Academic) $18.99 Eight key “turning points” in the overall plot of the Old Testament. Paying close attention to the text, but yet showing these high points of the story, the author gives a real boost to our understanding.
God and the World in the New Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation Terence E. Fretheim (Abingdon) $15.95 Brueggemann has suggested that this is Fretheim’s master work, and extraordinary effort that “balances close exegesis and large theological interpretation.” One of our customers says it is the most important book she has read in years!
Certainly these questions—the Creator God, the created world, and our role in creation—loom large over the Bible, and large over our contemporary world.
The Word That Redescribes the World: The Bible and Discipleship Walter Brueggemann (Fortress) $35.00 This may be my favorite Brueggemann collection in quite some time; I’ve mentioned it here before. Previously written academic pieces, lectures, sermons, articles, all arranged around the way the Bible “redescribes the world”, “redescribes the possible” and “shapes a community of discipleship.” Thanks be to God for such work by one of the most distinguished and generative thinkers of our time.
And so, here is my list for the college teacher at an evangelical school who wondered what New Testament introductions we might suggest.
Called to Be Church: The Book of Acts for a New Day Anthony B. Robinson & Robert W. Wall (Eerdmans) $20.00 Regular readers of our blog may know that we have already noted Robinson’s book on why theology is important to ordinary congregations (What’s Theology Have to Do With It?) which illustrates how this UCC pastor wants to nurture mainline congregations with theological depth. Here, he shows how it is done by using the Bible. As more scholarly opinion has it these days, The Acts of the Apostles occupies a central location in the New Testament and survey courses ought not miss it. Neither should ordinary pastors and church folk. This is a great study of this book, as they wrestle with Acts for the churches of today.
Reading Romans Through the Centuries: From the Early Church to Karl Barth Edited by Jeffrey P. Greenman & Timothy Larsen (Brazos) $29.99 I didn’t actually include this on my “survey” list, but I wanted to list it here as an example of the fascinating books that are coming out (and, especially, it seems, from Brazos Press in Grand Rapids.) Here, you have over a dozen contemporary theologians or Biblical scholars writing about the views of those who, through church history, have made it their work to comment on Paul’s letter to the Romans. Here is Chrysostom, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Hodge, and more.
Paul N.T. Wright (Fortress) $25.00 There has been such a wonderful amount of Pauline scholarship in this decade and we have our favorites, and those that we know are vital. I suppose that should be a BookNotes topic. For now, I must again suggest this accissible book by one of the most important New Testament guys writing today. Those who disapprove of Wright’s views most likely will still not be convinced, but this is an essential contribution to the discusion and a must-read for those who care about the New Testament and its message.