I have published a list of ten books pastors should read in order to gain a better understanding of the Old Testament. One reader asked me if I could provide a list of ten books pastors should read in order to gain a better understanding of the New Testament.
Since New Testament scholarship is outside of my area of expertise, I asked my friend and former colleague at Northern Baptist Seminary, Scot McKnight, if he could develop a list of ten books that pastors should read.
Scot McKnight is a world-renowned speaker and a prolific writer. He has written more than sixty books and hundreds of articles on the historical Jesus and early Christianity. He has also written several commentaries on New Testament books.
I have reviewed several of Scot’s books on my blog. In his commentary on Philemon, Scot has an excellent discussion of slavery in the Roman world. You can read my review of Scot’s commentary on Philemon in my post, “Philemon: A Call to Reconciliation.”
Here is the list Scot has developed of the ten books pastors should read:
1. E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016).
Sanders here presents an alternative, a “new perspective” for understanding Judaism — and relies heavily upon Josephus.
2. C. H. Dodd, According to the Scriptures: The Sub-Structure of New Testament Theology (London: Nisbet, 1953) and C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments (New York: Harper & Row, 1964).
Two separable works that really belong together: the first explains how the early Christians used the Old Testament and the second the ground of early Christian preaching.
3. C. F. D. Moule, Birth of the New Testament (London: Continuum, 2000) and C. F. D. Moule, The Phenomenon of the New Testament (London: S. C. M. Press, 1967).
Two books that do not belong together, except that they are both by Moule, a prince of New Testament scholars and one born with a crystal-clear pen. The first is a unique perception of how the New Testament grew into shape and the second for those who “have written off Christianity.”
4. N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (London: SPCK Publishing, 2015).
This book made N. T. Wright famous as he challenged the historical Jesus scholars of the time (Crossan, Borg, Fredriksen) with a different worldview and a theory: the end of exile.
5. Lynn H. Cohick, Women in the World of the Earliest Christians: Illuminating Ancient Ways of Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009).
This book forms for many of us the introduction to how important women were in earliest Christianity and in the New Testament period.
6. James D. G. Dunn, The Partings of the Ways (London: SCM Press, 2006).
A demonstration that Christianity took time to develop and the relationship with Judaism was complex, and a book that sums up much of Dunn’s perceptions of how earliest Christianity developed. This book eventually became his three volumes The Beginnings of Christianity.
7. John M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017).
The best study ever written on the theme of grace in Paul’s letters. He encompasses anthropology, Bible, Roman and Greek sources, as well as the history of theologians in this exceptional study.
8. Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2003).
There are many books today on New Testament Christology but Hurtado spent his entire career building toward this large study of how earliest Christology formed out of the experience of worship.
9. Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1974).
The definitive study of the interpretation of Judaism and Hellenism; his follow ups were Jews, Greeks, and Barbarians and The Hellenization of Judaea in the First Century after Christ. At the time this book rocked New Testament studies.
10. Brian K. Blount, Revelation: A Commentary. The New Testament Library (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013).
This book on Revelation, a commentary, is clear, compelling, and theologically astute as it maps the vision of the Lamb as a form of resistance and witness to the empire of Rome.
Scot has been modest by not listing any of the books he has written. There are many books Scot wrote that should be in a pastor’s library.
One of the most important is A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Publishers, 2020).
This book was co-written with Laura Barringer, Scot’s daughter. This book is designed to help pastor develop a healthy and loving church.
The other book that pastors should read is Reading Romans Backwards: A Gospel of Peace in the Midst of Empire (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2019).
In this book Scot says that reading the book of Romans backwards is the secret to understanding the relationship between theology and life and the key to unlocking the message of Romans.
I want to express my appreciation to Scot for taking time out of his busy schedule to develop this list of ten books about the New Testament that pastors should read.
Other Posts on This Series:
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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