Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Five Influential Books

"Here’s the crack:
1. Name the five books (or scholars) that had the most immediate and lasting influence on how you read the Bible. Note that these need not be your five favorite books, or even the five with which you most strongly agree. Instead, I want to know what five books have permanently changed the way you think.
2. Tag five others."

For follow up on where this started, now has gotten to, and the ten most popular books so far go here and here.

Here are my five books, but there could be others if I were permitted ten or fifteen.

From memory this is the order I read them in (over the course of thirty plus years).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship Opened my eyes as a teenager to the sheer radicalness of the call of Jesus to follow him. The gospels ever since have been a huge part of my understanding of Christianity, important though Paul’s epistles are … Bonhoeffer became the door wherein I went, with the later help of Ellul’s The Presence of the Kingdom, to understand that the politics of God never falls down on the side of left or right but is completely different. I find it so hard to know who to vote for at elections.

John A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament Here was magic. The normal findings of NT scholarship about composition dates turned upside down. Written by the same guy who turned theology upside down in both public discourse and vicars' studies with Honest to God. Thereafter (for me) no theologian could be placed in a neat box; almost any thesis with sufficient cunning could be argued by a clever mind; and no liberal ‘fact’ of biblical scholarship was beyond assault.

Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her To be honest I cannot tell you much from memory about the detail of Fiorenza’s argument and I now hardly ever open this book up. But it was the door to a new world of reading the Bible through feminine if not feminist eyes, recognizing that within and behind the text were women who could be seen when the right light was brought to bear; yet who often remained, like the woman who inspired the title, anonymous, overshadowed by men - an injustice a true understanding of the gospel ought to put right.

James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making I read this carefully when preparing my doctoral studies in the Christology of the Book of Revelation (Jimmy Dunn was my supervisor so there was more than one reason for reading it attentively). His careful unwillingness within a fairly conservative framework to accept any easy equation between NT texts and Chalcedonian propositions taught me to be … careful in my own biblical reading, take nothing for granted, and dig deeper. I often fail to mimic the master.

Walter Moberly, The Bible, Theology and Faith Walter Moberly was and remains on the teaching staff of Durham’s Dept. of Theology. In person he was the luminous intelligence I have renewed acquaintanceship with by reading his writings. This book simply, deeply illuminates the pages of Scripture, Old and New Testaments, opening up new insights from perceptive weighing of texts I so often rush over. From this book, and, indeed all Moberly’s work I am helped to be confident that in God’s Word written there is one theology, ‘biblical theology’ at work through the diversity of Scripture. This flows from the influence of Brevard S. Childs’ canonical criticism on Moberly: I think Child’s work is important too, but I like the way Moberly writes better.

So that’s it then. Nothing on the New Perspective on Paul? No. Never got really shook up about all that stuff. Kind of still making up my mind!

Other scholars have encouraged, inspired, and helped me in Bible study: C.S. Lewis, John Stott and Francis Schaeffer ages ago; N. T. Wright, D.A. Carson, C. K. Barrett, C.E.B. Cranfield, F.F. Bruce, Richard Bauckham, Martin Hengel, Larry Hurtado, Francis Watson, Graham Stanton, Paul Trebilco, Karl Barth, Raymond Brown, Michael Goulder, Anthony Thiselton, Christopher Rowland, and John Ashton more recently.

If you read this you are tagged to carry on the crack:

Cranmer’s Curate, Liturgy, Colourful Dreamer, Theobloby, Available Light


Ken Brown said...

This is a great list! Thanks!

I've added it to the list.

Anonymous said...

Typischer Neutestamentler - fast nichts ueber die Mehrheit der Bibel!