The Bible and Culture

The Bible and Culture

Ten 2009 Books on the New Testament You Should have Read


Of the making of Biblical studies books there is no end, but not all books are created equal.  One of the questions I often get is what were the best Biblical Studies books that came out this year which should be added to a library.  So on my birthday and without trying to come up with any definitive or exhaustive list and without dealing with commentaries, here are ten books you need if you wish to be a serious student of the NT– in no particular order:


1) N.T. Wright, Justification.   Whether you love his work or loath it, Tom certainly articulates a particular, clear point of view, and this volume is unique in the Wright ouevre in being something of an apologia for his own views on justification which have been under attack.

2) BW3, The Indelible Image Vol. One.  Setting aside both hubris and false humility, this is an important work, not least because of its comprehensive coverage of all the NT witnesses and Jesus, and because it deals with both theology and ethics.  This work is incomplete without the second and final volume in this series which will appear in 2010.

3) J.D.G. Dunn, Christianity in the Making Vol. 2. Beginning from Christianity,  Jimmy Dunn’s work reflects a lifetime of vigorous thought, reading, dialogue, and interaction with a wide panoply of NT scholarship.  Dunn is attempting to do for our generation what Cadbury, Lake, Foakes Jackson and others did in their Beginnings of Christianity series from over 50 years ago. Few scholars have the scope of knowledge to pull off something like this with success, but Dunn does.


4) Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.  Though this book did not come out in 2009, it has only just begun to have its full effect, and as Richard himself has said to me– its probably his most important book.  If you haven’t read it yet, stop everything and do so.  It puts the cat amongst the pigeons when it comes to a variety of issues including the nature of how Christians passed on the sayings of Jesus and the authorship of the Gospels.

5)  John Meier, A Marginal Jew, Vol. Four.  Though it appears that the apex of the third quest for the historical Jesus has come and gone, when the dust has settled this series of books on Jesus may well endure as the most important contributions to the discussion.


6) Philip Payne, Man and Woman. One in Christ, As the culture wars rage on in the conservative church about the role of women, a few scholars have spent most of their careers dealing with the detailed historical and exegetical and theological issues. Few have done a better job of dealing with these issues than my old classmate at GCTS, Phil Payne.

7)  E.A. Judge, The First Christians in the Roman World, Finally the many many important essays of Edwin Judge on the social history of the NT period are being collected and put into print enmasse.  This collection is voluminous, and it was presaged by my old teacher David Scholer’s last labor of love editing a much smaller collection of Ed Judge’s essays in Social Distinctives of the Christians in the First Century. Both of these volumes are invaluable.


8) Gary Burge et al. The New Testament in Antiquity, Though I have a few bones to pick with some of the judgments in this volume, it is still excellent, and an excellent place to start when trying to assess the  NT in its various settings in the Jewish and Greco-Roman worlds. On top of this it has wonderful pictures and illustrations as well.

9) David deSilva– Seeing Things John’s Way. The Rhetoric of the Book of Revelation. This book is extremely rich and offers a rhetorically sensitive way of reading the Apocalypse. David writes well to boot, and so hopefully this will help us all get a better grasp of John’s world view and persuasion.

10) Craig Keener, The Historical Jesus. If Meier’s four volumes is too many big books on Jesus, here is just one giant book that does justice to the subject of what we can know and say about the most influential person of all time. Craig’s work reflected detailed and at times exhaustive research on a subject and his coverage of important issues can’t be beat.

Comments read comments(13)
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Mark Stevens

posted December 29, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Nice list. Having read 1, 2 (part of the way through), 3, 4, & 10 this year I must say that I concur with your assessment of Bauckham’s work. It has changed the way I view and have faith in both the historicity and testimony of the Gospel’s.
Ben when is volume 2 of your theology and ethics due for release?

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Mike Bird

posted December 30, 2009 at 12:44 am

Ben, great list. Though I would have added Doug Campbell’s “Deliverance of God” Mike Gorman’s “Inhabiting the Cruciformed God”.

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Ben Witherington

posted December 30, 2009 at 7:26 am

I agree Mike, those are important books. Its hard to narrow it down to only ten. Mark I suspect volume two will be out by next Sept. depending on IV Press.

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Casey Taylor

posted December 30, 2009 at 11:03 am

Ben, thanks for the list. I’m currently trying to finish Wright’s “Resurrection of the Son of God” and have made headway into Campbell’s “The Deliverance of God.” I’ve avoided Wright’s “Justification” because I’m familiar with Campbell’s work. Just curious about your thoughts on Douglas Campbell’s work on Paul in general and “Deliverance” in particular.

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Michael Templin

posted December 30, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Excellent List Dr. Witherington! I shall have to pick a few of these up to update my brain with latest in NT theology and Biblical studies.
God Bless

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posted December 30, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Awesome, Dr. Witherington, Thanks. And Happy Birthday! :)
I love reading Wright, Keener, and Witherington, and I appreciate new suggestions as well.

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posted December 30, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Thanks Ben! Your ministry has brought healing and hope to my soul.
Your friend Dan

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Marc Axelrod

posted December 30, 2009 at 6:47 pm

Happy New Year. Great list. Book number two was fabulous. I read volume one of Dunn’s Christianity in the Making and liked it a lot, though he disappointed me some with his discussion of the Nativity stories.
I gotta take exception to book number four, which bored me to tears. It might be important in NT studies in pointing out the historical viability of the eyewitnesses in John’s Gospel, but all that stuff about the different kinds of memories made for some pretty tedious reading. I know that the author was convalescing at the time he wrote it, but to me, he has given us better work than this.
I was all set to buy the E.A Judge book, until I saw the price on Amazon: $297???? Holy Cow pies Batman! For me to spend that much on a book, it better be a God approved addition to the NT :)
I bought the Keener book about a month ago, and I finally buckled and bought the Desilva volume and a few others on your list. Thank you for the list and God bless

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posted December 31, 2009 at 1:09 am

First, happy birthday!
Second, love the list. Very helpful. My amazon wish list is now a little bit longer.
Third, minor typo on the title of Dunn’s book. You meant of course “Beginning from Jerusalem.”

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posted December 31, 2009 at 11:47 am

Thanks for the list Dr. Witherington. Great! The only author I’ve read on this list is N.T. Wright. Habermas, Bruce and Metzger also offer writings along the lines of this post and of each of whom I’ve recently purchased a volume. At the moment I’m into Romans; a couple of nights ago spent many hours just meditating on the first 7 verses of Romans 1. When you think about those few but densely packed verses it suddenly comes to you this is a wide, wide history and theology course in just 7 verses with enormous consequences! How amazing is that! I’m also attempting to get a better ‘technical’ understanding of the manuscripts from which the NT comes. That’s such an amazing and fascinating subject and obviously quite, quite important.
Thanks for the list, happy new year and may there always be a camel to help with the load. However with current and new restrictions of flying it may be difficult to get the camel on the plane. :)

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posted December 31, 2009 at 11:51 am

And of course my submitted authors are not of this year but older but none the less still current at least for 2009.

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Willie B.

posted January 1, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Somebody mentioned above Campbell’s “Deliverance of God.” I have not read it yet, but was surprised it didn’t make the list. From what I hear, it’s suppose to be quite the book. I too would like to know what Ben’s thoughts on the book are.

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Fidelis M Naing Oo

posted August 29, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I get more knowledge and about christian.
can send to me to read a special book. Thank you.

My God Bless You.


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