I can’t possibly discuss every book I’d even like to discuss at length on this blog, let alone books I get that deserve to be mentioned. I would need four blogs to get all this accomplished.
Yet, I’ve been frustrated about this for a long time, and never landed on anything that works so I want to start a column I will call “Book Comments” that mentions some really good books, usually of an academic level fit mostly for pastors and professors. I want to mention two today:
Scott W. Hahn is known throughout the American religious scene as “the evangelical who went Catholic on us,” and Scott was featured in my own study of why evangelicals become Catholic. But Scott is a very good biblical scholar and theologian, and he is perhaps the world’s most covenant-focused interpreter of the Bible that I know. Furthermore, he has processed almost all of contemporary scholarship through his lens of kinship (with God) by covenant. Perhaps Michael Horton or one or two others rank up there with Scott, but I’d still give Scott the nod when it comes to a focus on covenant theology in interaction with all the discussions. Scott did his dissertation on this topic and he has been writing and speaking about it ever since, and if you know what he thinks about covenant, you’ll see it in every book he writes. I read Scott’s thesis and wrote him and urged him to publish it, and I’m so glad that Doubleday has brought it out in revised form in their prestigious Anchor Bible Reference Library. In my view, this book has to be read by seminarians across the theological spectrum. It’s that important. In some ways it chases away the old polarities and some of the more recent ones too. In process, it changes the categories.
In the same series, The Anchor Bible Reference Library, Luke Timothy Johnson has written yet one more intelligent, evidence-based book on the relationship of Greco-Roman religions and Christianity. This area — Greco-Romans religions — has entered a new phase of significance because of the cottage industry studies on the anti-empire ideology at work in so many New Testament studies today. For that reason alone Johnson’s book needs to be put on the shelf of all libraries and on the desk of anyone who wants to ponder anti-empire ideology. I hear this in professors and even more today among pastors. Recently two pastors told me they are thinking of writing a book on the anti-empire theme. Before you do, I say to them, figure out the evidence.
But there’s so much more and Johnson scans it all — this is a must-read book for the one who wants to understand the religious context of the earliest (diaspora especially) Christians. Johnson examines religious phenomena through the Third Century.