(Cross-posted at Times&Seasons.) First, Amazon is offering 30% off any book you buy for the next two days. Great time to pick up that hardcover Jewish Study Bible, Jewish Annotated New Testament, NRSV, or similar “expensive” hardcover you can’t get otherwise. Amazon link.
This was really hard to put together, much more than my OT list.
- New Bible translation. (See part 1). This is an absolute must. If you do nothing else, do this.
- Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible
- I’ve mentioned this one multiples times. It’s on my shortlist for the OT as well.
- Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament (but see #4 as well)
- Yes, the hardcopy is $40. But, it’s a coffee-table style book with lots of pictures, sidebars, and quality text. It’s the kind of thing you can read, but also interest your kids in.
- OR if you have some familiarity with NT scholarship, either Brown or Ehrman (listed in part 2) There are some tradeoffs.
- Brown’s Intro is longer and older (potential negative), but he was a Catholic priest (positive, in my book).
- Ehrman’s Intro is newer and arranged like a college textbook, with pictures, sidebars, etc. However, Ehrman’s loss of faith means he often pushes (I feel) the more cynical, non-traditional perspectives. I still find him valuable to read, but it’s not necessarily something that’s going to offer devotional or uplifting bits.
- Paul: A Very Short Introduction
- This is a bit of a gamble, since I haven’t read it. How do I recommend it? On the reputation of the publisher (Oxford), the series, the length, the price, and the author. E.P. Sanders started a revolution in understanding Paul and Palestinian Judaism when he argued that our understanding of Judaism at the time of Jesus was more influenced by Luther’s conflation of Catholic indulgences/legalism with NT Judaism. Not everyone has accepted his arguments (and I am no expert), but they have really made an important impact. If anyone could write a book at the sweet spot of accessibility, price, and content, Sanders would be it. Also, his other books tend to be fairly technical, so this is a good entry point.
- Something on history and culture, probably one of the three volumes below.
- Between the Testaments: From Malachi to Matthew
- This LDS volume focuses on the 400+ year time-period and changes between the end of the Old Testament and beginning of the New. This period of time is the transitionary period where all those things present in the NT but missing in the OT really solidify: Jewish groups (scribes, pharisees, saducees), common understandings and expressions (such as God as Father, and Holy Spirit), language and cultural changes (the Greeks invade c. 323 BC, Jews move all over the empire, Greek and Latin start playing a role, etc.)
- Hershel Shanks (ed.), Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple (Revised & Expanded)
- You can buy this at Amazon for an oddly inflated price, but it’s cheapest from the publisher. Shanks is the Jewish editor of such magazines as Biblical Archaeology Review, Bible Review (now defunct and merged with BAR), and some similar publications. BAR is worth reading, and I often post articles from it.
- Michael Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World
- Both of the above are good histories of the Biblical world from Old Testament through the “intertestamental period” until post-temple-destruction in 70 AD.
- John Welch, Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount.
- Welch compares Christ’s sermon in 3Nephi with the very similar sermon in Matthew. Free from the Maxwell Institute.
- I was about to recommend Mark Goodacre’s The Synoptic Problem: A Way through the Maze but it appears copies of this paperback(!) sell for $112-3000+ on Amazon. Fortunately, it’s legally available as a free pdf here. Goodacre is a NT professor at Duke, and runs a great short-podcast series on the New Testament, as well as the NT Gateway, which you should check out. Budget 10 minutes, and don’t get lost.
- Times&Seasons’ own Julie Smith, currently authoring the Mark volume for BYU’s NT Commentary series, has a book on the Gospels, full of thought questions. Currently unavailable, Kofford will be republishing it shortly.
Jesus and Judaism
That Jesus was Jewish is both obvious and not always well-known or understood, as is the idea that the Jewish schism which resulted in Christianity as a distinct religion led to both movements reacting against each other in formulating doctrine and ritual. Not too different from the RLDS/LDS schism in some ways.
- The Jewish Gospels Daniel Boyarin
- The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other– Peter Schäfer
- See the dual review here.
- Alan Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism
- This is one of the classics on the Judaic roots of Christianity’s Father/Son/Holy Ghost godhead, and the issues of monotheism.
Mormons tend to be very weak in Paul. Even with a modern translation, he can be very hard to understand. Plus, Protestants love Paul, so theological cooties and stuff. While the Gospels appear simpler (they’re not, so much), we really don’t read Paul in any kind of context or depth, very selectively, and that seriously weakens our missionary work and understanding of the gospel, I think.
- NT Wright, Paul: In Fresh Perspective
- N.T. Wright is an Anglican priest and NT scholar, who used to be the Bishop of Durham. I really like his stuff, and he’s been well-received in LDS circles. He writes both technically (usually as NT Wright) and more popular books (usually as Tom Wright), such as Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope. All his books are here.
- Wayment From Persecutor to Apostle: a Biography
- An LDS biography.
- Richard L. Anderson’s Understanding Paul is highly Mormonized and perhaps outdated, but does a really good job at what each of Paul’s letters is about, the issues in each church Paul set up, etc.
- NT Wright’s commentary on Romans (together with Acts-1Corinthians in the New Interpreter’s Bible Series is quite good.)
- Wright’s nuclear bomb of Pauline scholarship, about grace, faith, and the New Perspective on Paul is Paul and the Faithfulness of God. 1700 pages. Oof.
- BYU’s James Faulconer, modeling close slow reading, has some very good work on Romans 1, 5-8. The first part of this is available free from the Maxwell Institute.
- Ben Witherington’s Socio-Rhetorical Commentary seems to be a good series, but I just have generally positive views of him. Mostly. And he writes accessibly.
- Standing Apart: Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy
- This is the most recent LDS work on the Apostasy, looking at our tradition, history, and interpretation. Basically, we’ve had a pretty simplistic tradition that borrowed heavily from Protestants. This complicates that tradition.
- Luke Timothy Johnson’s The Writings of the New Testament.
- This is kind of an introduction, kind of a commentary. Johnson is a prof. at Emory, and a Catholic (former Benedictine monk and priest.) He’s also the author of The New Testament: A Very Short Introduction, which means it’s probably worth reading.