Top 20 Books on the New Testament
Life is good. There are plenty of great books to read, and several I still want to write. My magnum opus, if I ever get around to finishing it, will be called Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. It will be an examination of the New Testament teaching about the kingdom of God.
Meanwhile, I’ve done a good bit of reflecting on the books that have impacted me the most for the kingdom. Hence this list. Please note: These are not necessarily books written by New Testament scholars. Nor does my list include perfunctory choices (such as New Testament introductions, which, by and large, simply repeat what everyone else has been saying). These are books that have spoken to me, and spoken to me deeply, about what it means to be a New Testament Christian, that is, an obedient follower of the Lord Jesus. Some of them you may have never read. Perhaps most of them. Yet what great books! What challenging authors!
As I write this essay, the sun has begun to shine after a long rainstorm. So gorgeous. The beauty here redoubles the message: “Keep on following Jesus, Dave!” I hope and pray that by reading these books you will be encouraged to do the same thing.
And now, without further ado and in no particular order, my 20 favorite books on the New Testament (excluding my own, of course):
1. Ephesians by Markus Barth. Barth was an outstanding lecturer in Basel. He was even a greater writer. Just read what he has to say about marriage in Ephesians 5 and see if you don’t agree.
2. The Subversive Kingdom by Jacque Ellul. We manifest true kingdom living when we experience the perfect love of God toward us and then manifest that love toward others. If you share this vision of the kingdom, will you join me in praying for the church in North America that God will awaken us to the political delusion that has descended upon us?
3. Christian Anarchy by Vernard Eller. I’ve summarize this outstanding work in my book Christian Archy.
4. Christology of the New Testament by Oscar Cullmann. I was a fan of Oscar Cullmann long before I met him in Basel. He was a tireless and fearless champion of biblical truth among liberal scholars. No better introduction to New Testament Christology exists than his.
5. The Byzantine Text Type and New Testament Textual Criticism. For more, see my Harry Sturz: New Testament Textual Critic. I am currently trying to get this book back into print.
6. Biblical Words and Their Meaning by Moisés Silva. Silva took James Barr’s works and popularized them.
7. Greek Words with Hebrew Meanings by David Hill. A follow-up to Barr’s tome on semantics. It completely changed the way I viewed New Testament lexicography.
8. The Synoptic Problem by William Farmer. Bill and I shared similar views about the historical origins of the Gospels. His was the first book to get me to rethink Markan Priority.
9. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F. F. Bruce. This is the best apologetics book on the subject.
10. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research by A. T. Robertson. Elsewhere I have written (Ten Best Books for Studying New Testament Greek):
I seldom felt so pitifully incompetent as when I first picked up this book. It almost counts as a “mental autobiography.” Robertson tried to show the effect, upon a growing new science, of the profound transformation that modern linguistics had brought in the way scholars approached the Greek of the New Testament. Most modern teachers of Greek give the book faint praise, then promptly ignore it. In my opinion, that is a huge mistake. I require the book in my Advanced Greek Grammar course, but even intermediate level students who are willing to work will benefit from it.
11.1 Corinthians by Gordon Fee. A Pentecostal writing a commentary on 1 Corinthians? What a novel idea. But note: he is a very self-critical Pentecostal.
12. The New Testament Era by Bo Reicke. You’ve probably never heard of the author. He was my doctor father in Basel and a New Testament historian. If you can read this work in the original German, so much the better.
13. Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth. I read all of these volumes, in German, when I was studying in Switzerland. Barth's theology may be off in places, but his exegesis of specific New Testament texts is often impeccable.
14. The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason. The best book written on Christian marriage. Ever.
15. Exegetical Fallacies by D. A. Carson. This book shook me up in seminary, as well it should have. If fallacies are still being perpetuated in sermon and commentary, we can’t blame Don for the problem.
16. The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder. A fellow Basel grad, Yoder exemplifies all that is good about Anabaptist theology. As Christians who pledge ultimate loyalty to Jesus, we should individually and collectively engage in social activism in a Christ-like way. If you don’t know what that looks like, read Yoder.
17. Baptism in the New Testament by Beasley Murray. The best defense and explanation of believers’ baptism ever written.
18. Ephesians by Harold Hoehner. See my Harold Hoehner: Co-Yoked with Christ.
19. Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon. “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin' through.” Note: Adherents of Christendom will not like this book.
20. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. This book plays “the Devil’s advocate” as none other. We all have “distractions” that would keep us from following Jesus wholeheartedly. The problem is that we are usually unaware of them. This book will help us.
Whether or not you end up reading any of these books (or any of mine, for that matter), prayerfully consider what genuine New Testament Christianity ought to look like. And I’d appreciate your prayers … Satan does not want me to finish my book on the kingdom. So keep me covered, will you?
July 24, 2014
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.