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.