Books I am currently reviewing and reading…

I returned back home to Durham (England) last week from a two week holiday in the US with my family. While in my hometown (Ashland, Ohio) I like to stop in the seminary (Ashland Theological Seminary) and visit with some of the profs there. Strangely enough, some of them I know because I went to high school with their kids! In any case, one of these profs (David Baker, OT scholar) is also the editor of Ashland Theological Journal and allows me to take back a few books in NT to review for the journal. I thought I would share what I am reading. At first I thought posting on ‘what I am reading’ is a bit self-centered, but I thought, (1) this is a blog based my interests and research, so where else would be better?, and (2) I can offer a brief word about these relatively recent books and why I think they are interesting.

Paul: Missionary of Jesus (Paul Barnett): Intro books on the Apostle Paul are rather plentiful (for a short one I like Horrell, for a longer one M. Gorman), but I am always looking for good potential textbooks. Barnett is a good scholar and we have seen good commentary work from him (2 Corinthians, NICNT). He is critical of the New Perspective, so I am interested to see how he treats the subject. The book is endorsed by Hengel and Carson, but that is not too surprising. Also, Barnett tries to draw from both Acts and the Pauline corpus and sometimes this is done well and sometimes not so much. So, I am eager to see how he works out that approach.

Greed as Idolatry (B. Rosner). Rosner is an excellent exegete and also an expert in Pauline ethics. Interest in how metaphors shape reality is increasing interest among theologians and so this is a timely study as well.

Aspects of the Atonement (I.H. Marshall).  This short book engages in the topics of cross, resurrection, and reconciliation.  I have always enjoyed Marshall’s work (his NT Theology is quite good).  This should be a fun read.  As Mike Bird pointed out on his blog, Marshall rightly draws attention to the significance of resurrection as a theme in NT soteriology.

Central Themes in Biblical Theology (Ed. S. Hafemann and P.R. House). An evangelical project, this collection of essays treats subjects such as covenant, commandments/law, atonement, the ‘servant of the Lord’, judgment, the people of God, and the history of redemption. Contributing scholars include Frank Thielman and Elmer Martens (as well as pieces by the editors). My mentor from Gordon-Conwell, Roy Ciampa, has an excellent piece on heilsgeschichte. I think, though I will confirm after I read it!, that this might make a good textbook for a ‘whole-Bible’ survey class or an intro to biblical theology.

The New Perspective on Paul (Dunn; revised edition). This collection of older essays and inclusion of some new material was previously published by Mohr Siebeck and was unbearably expensive. Luckily Eerdmans picked it up and now it seems very affordable (though I was lucky to get it free for review!). Interestingly he dedicates it to Tom Wright, ‘friend, co-worker, fellow soldier, and bishop’ (the quote is in Greek). The only new piece chapter/essay is one on Philippians 3 – I am very interested to see what Dunn has to say since I have my own thought on 3.2ff.

As a Christmas present, my father-in-law gave me a gift certificate to Borders and I didn’t have an opportunity to spend it until we went to the US, so I also picked up a couple of books for ‘fun’ reading:

The Hauerwas Reader – I really enjoy reading about theology and ethics.  I have only read the first essay so far, but I was very impressed at how readable he is.

Wesley for Armchair Theologians (W. Abraham) – Personal confession – I know very little about historical theology.  I have spent so much time specializing in NT that I barely qualify as ‘armchair’!  So, truth be told, this is about where I need to begin.  I have read about 1/3 and this series is really excellent.  Fun for pastors and a really good starting place for committed laypeople.  Plus, a professional cartoonist does illustrations throughout the book and he is excellent.  I would like to read the volume on Barth next, and Aquinas after that.

The Life and Work of Caravaggio.  I love art (especially paintings) and I really like art that portrays biblical scenes.  Caravaggio has quite a number of ‘biblical’ paintings, his Paul on the Road to Damascus being a well-known piece.  I have only read a couple of chapters, but his life is so fascinating.  He was quite a controversial figure – very anti-estabishment, lived on the street, offended everyone – that sort of thing.

So, I have a lot on my plate, but (for me) it is quite an appetizing plate!

$100 well spent for doctoral students

Not long ago I had a serious scare – my laptop wouldn’t boot up WIndows XP. I was mortified! But, it did eventually work and I knew that was a clarion call for me to invest in an external hard drive. There are many choices. Dozens and dozens of choices. If you just want some place to ‘store data’, then just about anything will be safe. But, if you need more, I have a recommendation. I decided to invest in Seagate FreeAgent Go (160 Gigs) for $95 at Best Buy. Why?

Not only does it store information, it simulates your PC environment so that if you plug the device into another computer, it will replicate your whole windows environment with your own programs, files, and folders in the same places where they are on your personal PC. Anything you do on the PC connected to your external hard drive will be saved only onto the external drive and when you sync it with your personal PC it will update your new work.  That means that when you travel, you don’t need to take your laptop if there is going to be a computer where you are going.  You just plug in the external HD and it was run your personal computer’s whole environment.  It is a virtual PC.

Not convinced?  PCWorld lists a similar Seagate external drive (FreeAgent PRO; a high-capacity version) as 4th of their top 10 on External Hard Drive; see HERE.  I also recommend using GSpace for online storage as additional backup because it is free and easy to use.

In terms of external HDs, others have recommended Maxtor.  Whatever you do, do it now!

A Model Scholar….

I am currently on holiday in America visiting my parents.  While in my hometown, I like to visit with some of the professors at the local seminary (Ashland Theological Seminary).  This week I had the honor of having breakfast with NT scholar David deSilva.  He just finished a year in Germany on the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt fellowship (working on a book on rhetoric).  Whenever I am doing research which corresponds to any of his areas of expertise (and there are several), I consult his work first.  May I recommend some of his works to you?

1. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods
& Ministry Formation (InterVarsity, 2004) – This evangelical introductory textbook, though quite long and bulky, is outstanding.  It has, in my opinion, the right mixture of historical, sociological, literary, rhetorical, and theological elements.  It is written at a relatively basic level so it is accessible to the novice in biblical studies.  If/When I teach a NT survey course, I will not hesitate to use this book.  When I taught a course on Paul and his letters, I had my students read selected portions of this book.

2. Introducing the Apocrypha (Baker Academic, 2000).  As software programs such as Bibleworks become more popular among seminarians, students are able, more and more, to search and engage in relevant texts for NT/OT studies.  But, few students really understand the Apocrypha in terms of these texts history, transmission, provenance, and literary and theological characteristics.  deSilva is able to give a brief, but informative precis of these documents. 

3. Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity (IVP, 2000).  It is becoming quite common for social-scientific models and tools to be integrated into discussions about the NT culture and social structures.  However, where does one begin to learn about these models, theories, studies, etc…?  deSilva offers a sort of ‘social-structure of NT world for dummies’ kind of book that excels at showing the relevance and value of this interpretive approach and perspective.  My only reservation is that this book (and others like it) tend to draw examples almost exclusively from Greco-Roman literature and little from the OT/Pseudepigrapha/DSS/Philo/Apocrypha – thought deSilva does better than most.  For instance, in terms of honor/shame, why do we always turn to quotes from Homer to prove it was important to Biblical writers and their original readers?  There are also good examples in Wisdom of Solomon or Philo.  In any case, if you teach NT survey or a class on biblical interpretation, this would also make a good textbook.  ALso check out his The Hope of Glory: Honor Discourse and New Testament
Interpretation
(Liturgical Press, 1999).

4. Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle “To the Hebrews”  (Eerdmans, 2001).  I have not read this cover-to-cover, but the portions I have interacted with were very rewarding.  There are few good scholars in Hebrews, but deSilva ranks in the top few.  If I am correct, he also did his PhD research on Hebrews under Luke TImothy Johnson.

I have read several of his articles and he has a clear and delightful writing-style that eschews technical jargon.  He also frequently has in mind topics that seem truly significant to the church in our time.