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Archive for the ‘Bible Scholars’ Category

I don’t highlight forthcoming books very often, but when a couple of my former professors are coming out with good ones, I feel the need to jump in (and when I’m having trouble coming up with other blogging ideas).

Brian Rosner and Roy Ciampa, the latter being one of my NT professors, are coming out with a commentary on 1 Corinthians in the Pillar series (Eerdmans) (Mark Heath already mentioned this one here).  These two already worked together on the 1 Corinthians portion of the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.  Rosner has previously published in the area of Pauline ethics in 1 Corinthians 5-7, so I suspect we’ll get some good stuff here.  Ciampa’s doctoral work (under Rosner, I believe) was in the area of the use of the OT in Galatians, so I’m sure there’ll be helpful insights in that area in 1 Corinthians.  Ciampa also has done a lot of translation work in Portugal, and heads up Gordon-Conwell’s new DMin program on Bible Translation.  When I studied under him he utilized insights from linguistics, especially in the area of Semantic Structure Analysis.  The word on the street (where there’s always commentary buzz) is that this commentary will have a stronger focus on the Jewish background to the letter, which can be a weakness in other commentaries. 

I have no doubt this will be a fine commentary, I just wonder if it’ll be used as widely as it could, considering there are already many excellent 1 Corinthians commentaries out there (Fee, Thiselton, Garland, Hays- not to mention Witherington, Barrett, Fitzmyer, Blomberg, Keener, and probably more that I’m forgetting).  There are few biblical books with as many good options to choose from.  Nonetheless, people eat new commentaries up, and the Pillar series is one of the finest available, so I’m sure it’ll do well.

Another book I’m looking forward to is John Jefferson Davis’ (known as “Jack Davis” on campus) book on worship, Worship and the Reality of God (IVP).  Davis has been teaching Systematic Theology and Ethics at Gordon-Conwell (I took him for the latter) since the mid-70’s.  If there’s one thing I can say about him, it’s that he’s influenced by an interesting mix of traditions and theological persuasions.  He’s firmly Reformed.  Paedobaptist.  Ordained PCUSA, attended an Orthodox Presbyterian Church when I was at seminary, now serves at an Episcopalian church (which makes me want to have a discussion with him on ecclesiology).  He’s an Egalitarian regarding women’s roles in ministry.  Firmly believes in the continuation of the spiritual gifts.  He’s also a Postmillennialist.  He is a strong advocate for large families and vocal opponent of abortion.  He has also lamented evangelicals’ poor track record regarding their theology of creation and is ecological implications (see this essay [pdf] from the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society) and updated his popular book, Evangelical Ethics, to include a chapter on that subject.  He has a background in science (I want to say it was Physics, but my memory could be wrong), writing and lecturing extensively on the intersection of science and faith.

My point is this: you don’t really know what you’re going to get.  If I get a chance to read this (it’s due about the same time as Pierce Baby #2, so that’s a big if) I bet I’ll be pumping my fist in agreement (what, you don’t do that when you read?) in one chapter, and shaking my head in the next.  I like to read those kinds of books.  At any rate, I’m excited for it’s release.

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I figured I’d continue my “5 Scholars” gimmick series with some thoughts on scholars who I wish would write more for a non-academic audience.  This is a follow-up to my “Must Read” and “Good Read” lists.  Some of these guys have already written some things for a non-academic audience, but would benefit many by writing even more.  In my opinion, it takes a certain skill to write for laypeople, a skill not all Bible scholars (or scholars of any stripe) are blessed with.  These five, however, have what it takes to make it work, and I hope they do so in the future.  Anyway, without further ado, here we go.

(1) Craig Blomberg.  Blomberg is a favorite of mine.  He’s a solid Bible scholar; writes nothing flashy or earth-shattering, but consistently churns out quality books.  I’ve previously reviewed his Jesus & the Gospels and Neither Poverty Nor Riches here at BBG.  Both of these books can be read by lay people (especially the one on the Gospels), yet are bulky and detailed enough that I’m not sure many would be drawn to them.  The same goes for his The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I feel like his books could be read by laypeople, but don’t target them. 

Books I’d like to see

  • Blomberg is excellent on parables, perhaps a scaled down version (i.e., not 300+ pages) of what he’s previously written
  • A lay introduction to Jesus, focusing less on scholarship and more on the Gospel accounts (maybe condense sections 3-5 of his Jesus & the Gospels)
  • Of all the scholars I read, Blomberg could pull off a Jesus/Gospels Q & A better than anyone.  I could see him sitting down in a room with 20 laypeople, answering questions in a way that would be informing and transforming.  I’d love to see him do something like this, addressing questions of interpretation, historicity, etc.  This may be something better done on his blog, but either way, I think it’d be great. 

(2) Douglas Moo.  For my money, Moo is one of the finest NT scholars out there.  I place his Romans commentary as my personal favorite, his James commentary is up there with the best, and I’d bet his Colossians/Philemon commentary is just as good.  Granted, he has written lay level commentaries on Romans and James, but I’m learning that commentaries are not as popular amongst laypeople as perhaps they once were. 

Books I’d like to see

  • An Intro to Paul, something along the lines of what Michael Bird accomplished and Anthony Thiselton tried to
  • Some of D A Carson’s best stuff are his expositions on sections of Scripture (Sermon on the Mount, for example).  I could see Moo doing something like this on a section like Romans 5-8, or maybe the intersection of faith & works.
  • I’ve heard Moo is writing a book on creation and the environment.  Again, if anyone could write a book like this detailing what the Bible teaches about God’s creation to a lay audience, I think Moo could do it.
  • A book on Bible translation.  As the chairman of the committee responsible for the upcoming NIV2011, Moo could do everyone in the church a service by writing about how translations are done, what sorts of issues are involved, why it’s more complicated than it looks, etc.

(3) Bruce Waltke.  Waltke is a gifted communicator with a passion for the church.  He openly admits that he writes for the church more so than the academy.  The only problem is that his books tend to be huge and detailed, something that makes them far less accessible to laypeople (you know, the ones who actually comprise most of the church) than to scholars &/or trained pastors.  His OT Theology weighs in at 1000+ pages (and took me forever to review), and his Proverbs commentary might be the best around, but is 2 Volumes totalling 1300+ pages.

Books I’d like to see

  • A condensed version of his OT Theology
  • A book on biblical wisdom, not so much an intro to wisdom literature, but a look at what it means to live wisely in a biblical sense in the 21st century
  • A similar book on the Psalms, what can the Psalms teach us about how we live, worship, etc.

(4) Gordon Wenham.  I feel like Wenham is often overlooked when discussing the best OT scholars out there, but if I were to list some of the best Pentateuch commentaries, he’d be near the top for Genesis, Leviticus and Numbers (the latter being one that could reach a lay audience).  He has written Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, which could hit a lay audience if it weren’t so textbookish. 

Books I’d like to see

  • His Leviticus commentary is quite good, I wonder if he could write a book on the theme of sacrifice in the Bible, culminating in Jesus (and I’d love to hear his thoughts on Hebrews)
  • I’d love for someone to write a book taking a few major themes of the Pentateuch (3-5) and showing how they set the stage for what comes in the rest of the Bible.  I’m thinking of themes like: creation, blessing, sacrifice (see above), covenant.  Wenham would be a great scholar to write such a book, and could probably do it in a non-scholarly fashion.

(5) Peter O’Brien.  O’Brien has written some of the best Pauline commentaries out there.  His commentaries on Philippians, Colossians and Ephesians are either the best for those individual books are darn close.  It is clear he has a desire to explain the text for pastors and teachers in a way that is biblically faithful and responsible.  Yet, he’s written almost nothing for the lay person to read. 

Books I’d like to see written

  • Philippians and Ephesians both have a lot to say about the church, since O’Brien has written excellent commentaries on both, I bet he could do something along these lines
  • Moore Theological College has posted 100+ O’Brien sermons/lectures online.  Could any of these be turned into smaller books of expositions?  I’ve listened to his series on Romans 8 and I think so.
  • Like Douglas Moo above, I think he could write an excellent lay level Intro to Paul.

Is there anyone I’m missing?  Any other book ideas (which, by the way, is another post I’d like to write)?

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A few days ago I wrote a post called “5 Must Read Scholars (for the non-academic),” and this is intended as a quick follow-up (that’s taken me 3 days to write).  You can call this the “honorable mention” list, the “B-Team,” the “JV Squad,” etc.  I’d like to follow this up with a list of scholars I wish would write for a non-academic audience, but that probably won’t happen for a few weeks as I’ll be off the radar for a while.  Anywho, see my previous post if you want to know my angle on this.  Without further ado…

(1) Craig Keener.  Of the 5 on this list, Keener was the hardest for me to leave off the original.  Part of this is because he’s a great scholar.  His knowledge of ancient backgrounds is simply astounding (though he can overdo this and include much that is less relevant, such as in his large Matthew commentary).  But what I appreciate about him the most is his humility.  Keener sees himself primarily as a servant of the church.  I was hooked just reading the dedication page of his Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament, which is dedicated to those working on the “frontlines” of ministry and do not have the time to research historical and cultural backgrounds to the Bible.  Keener isn’t simply amassing knowledge to write books; he’s dispensing it for the benefit of the church.  (I should also mention, he fits firmly in the Pentecostal/Charismatic camp and, thus, I have a soft spot for him.)

If you want a feel for his humility, check out these two interviews: with Matt at Broadcast Depth and with Nijay Gupta (Part I and Part II).

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(2) Douglas Stuart.  I need to give a shout-out to one of my former profs.  Stuart is an excellent combination of scholarly rigor and pastoral sensitivity, and I’m privileged to say I’ve learned from him firsthand.  One top of the “How to Read the Bible…” books he’s coauthored with Gordon Fee, Stuart has written a couple commentaries for both pastors and scholars (and the mix, of course), as well as an excellent book on OT exegesis.  While I’m here, I might as well plug (once again) his OT Survey course, available for free at Bible Training. 

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(3) Darrell Bock.  In my last post, Nick mentioned Bock as another option, and I heartily agree.  His massive 2-volume Luke commentary is outstanding, and has written 2 shorter ones that would be great for laypeople.  One main reason he didn’t make my first list is that I haven’t read a ton of his stuff, so I can’t speak first hand about everything (maybe Nick can chime in if he reads this).  Nonetheless, the stuff he has written on the popular level, specifically dealing with the trustworthiness of the biblical Gospels, would benefit anyone who reads them.

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(4) Tremper Longman III.  Longman is an excellent OT scholar and widely respected.  Some of his more popular level stuff I haven’t read, though IVP sent me How to Read Exodus a while back and it looks helpful.  Again, I think I appreciate his desire to communicate effectively with non-scholars, so I’m including him on this list.

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(5) George Eldon Ladd.  Ladd may seem like an odd choice here, and not just because he’s the only deceased scholar on either list, but his inclusion is definitely deliberate.  Given all the confusion regarding eschatology in the church, I think it is important to read solid biblical scholarship on the issue (part of why I recommended N T Wright on my first post).  Greg Beale is also good here, but I think Ladd’s influence is greater than many realize.  I see bits of his work on eschatology and the kingdom in many different places, from scholars like Gordon Fee & Craig Blomberg to men like John Wimber.  Someday, when I have a year with nothing to do (read: never), I’d love to do a side-by-side reading of George Ladd and N T Wright.  Between the two of them, I think you can end up with a pretty solid view of God’s ultimate plan of redemption.

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

Is there anyone else I’m missing?

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A conversation over at Marcus’ blog reminded me of a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time.  I’ve wanted to do a list of must-read scholars for a while, but have never been sure how to approach it.  Do I do a list of the best?  Most influential?  Most interesting?  Do I restrict it to OT scholars?  NT scholars?  Theologians?  Do I go completely subjective and list my favorites, or do I include those with whom I’m less enamored?  Will anyone even care about my stupid list?  These are the questions in my mind…

I’ve opted to consider my main audience for this blog: the average churchgoer.  I know people from my church read this blog who are not academically trained but are still interested in learning from Bible scholars.  They may not know Greek and Hebrew, but they desire to glean from the insights of those who do.  So I’ve decided to tailor this list to this (somewhat imaginary) group.  Because of this, I will leave off scholars who have made a major impact on scholarship but are less helpful to the layperson (the Rudolf Bultmann types).  I’m also sticking to my area of “expertise” (if I may be permitted a moment of hubris), which mostly NT & OT scholarship (so no systematic theologians).  The list is presented in no particular order.

Allow me to make a couple other notes:

  • I’m weighing more heavily toward the NT side of things.  This is for 2 main reasons: 1) I know NT scholarship better than I do OT scholarship, and 2) most of my favorite OT scholars have written little for the layperson in mind (I’m thinking of Gordon Wenham and guys like that). 
  • I’ll give a couple reading recommendations for each scholar, in case my reader(s) want(s) to dig deeper.
  • The scholars on this list are invited to mention their inclusion on their resume or CV.  You’re welcome. 
  • If you think this is just an excuse to talk about scholars and books, you know me very well.  =)

(1) Gordon Fee.  Come on, if you’ve been reading this blog for more than 5 seconds you knew Fee was making the cut.  In fact, I’d have to turn in my charismatic membership card if I didn’t include him.  I appreciate any man who writes the book on exegesis, but insists that exegesis is merely the first step in applying the Bible to the life of the church.  I also appreciate any scholar whose lectures are more like sermons.  I heard a line from his daughter, theologian Cherith Fee Nordling, about Fee that sums up what I appreciate about him (paraphrase): my father loves the Lord and loves the Bible, but never in reverse order. 

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(2) Christopher J H Wright.  It’s funny, 6 months ago I may not have included Wright.  But the more I read his stuff, the more I want to give him a high-five (see my previous post for an indication).  In some ways, he’s an interesting bird- how many OT scholars are also missiologists?  A Cambridge PhD who trained church planters in India and now heads up John Stott’s ministry organization?  This is my kind of guy. 

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions

(3) Richard Bauckham.  Bauckham has actually written less for the layperson than the rest of the scholars on this list, but I wanted to include him anyway because he’s one of the few scholars refered to as “groundbreaking” that may actually deserve the title.  Mind you, no one is really groundbreaking.  When I mentioned in a class at my church that Bauckham had written a book defending the eyewitness connection to the Gospels, I was met with “no duh” stares.  It’s not his conclusion that is groundbreaking, it’s the manner in which he makes his case that sets him apart from so many others.  Bauckham is the toughest read on this list, but may well be worth the trouble.

Reading suggestions

(4) D A Carson.  This is not Carson’s first appearance on this blog.  There are few scholars who have made so much of their work accessible to the church, as you can see here on his resource page at The Gospel Coaltion website.  This son of a church planter in French Canada has planted churches, travels around the world every year speaking in churches and conferences, teaches and advises students, yet still finds time to write somewhere around a million books a year.  He cranks out a book faster than I write a blog post.  If I had to pick one scholar on this list for the average layperson to read I think Carson would be it, not because he’s the best scholar but because he does the best job of communicating to the audience I’m aiming for.  Note: this list of books is highly selective, there are many more I could include.

Layperson reading suggestions

Academic reading suggestions

(5) N T Wright.  I’ll confess, I’ve been debating whether or not I should include Wright on this list.  If we’re talking about most interesting, he’d easily make the list.  Everything he writes is worth reading, even if he’s dead wrong (note, over 1100 people went to a conference at Wheaton centering on Wright’s scholarship).  Wright is brilliant- sometimes brilliantly right, and sometimes brilliantly wrong.  I’ve put it this way: Wright is a classic pendulum swinger.  He’ll notice an over-emphasis on something, then in attempt to correct this problem he’ll go too far in his emphasis.  If you know that going in, you’ll do well in reading him.  Anyway, I love reading his stuff, but you must always read with discernment.

Layperson reading suggestions

Academic reading suggestions

So there’s my list; maybe on another post I can give my “near miss” category (I’m at 1300+ words already though).  I’d love to hear thoughts from others out there, either about the people on this list or others you think should be included.

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