Five Books Every NT PhD Student Should Read (and they are not theological)

I have said before that when it comes to doing a good PHD, ‘the magic is in the method’ – that means that just doing exegesis of a passage is not enough (anymore). We need ‘fresh’ approaches to the NT, largely because it is well-worn ground. How can you find something original? Now, not every thesis will be original in its method, but that is a great area to express the ‘originality’ of your thesis statement – ‘My study will take the theory of X and apply it to Y-NT text’. So, in the name of good inter-disciplinarity, I am recommending 5 books that every NT pHD Student should read.

The social construction of reality; a treatise in the sociology of knowledge,
by Peter L Berger; Thomas Luckmann (1966; the relationship between ideas and communities; the formation of our symbolic world)
Metaphors we live by
by George Lakoff; Mark Johnson (1980; how metaphors shape our thinking; they are a part of the substructure of our thought, rather than just a rhetorically-appealing way to communicate)
Purity and danger; an analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo
by Mary Douglas (1966; an argument that ritual is not just the expression of belief, but a way of ordering society and reinforcing identity)
The interpretation of cultures; selected essays.
by Clifford Geertz (1973; how religion is not just about rituals, but that it offers a particular world view and ethos that provides stability and forms identity in such a way that helps things like suffering to make sense)
How to do things with words
by J L Austin (1962; how we act not just through the expression of thoughts in words, but how the doing is in the declaring – does this sound confusing? It is. But, after a few read throughs it starts to make sense)
This is a good place, I think, to start.
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8 thoughts on “Five Books Every NT PhD Student Should Read (and they are not theological)

  1. Thanks for the suggestions. Well noted. As for Durkheim, I think Douglas has done a good job articulating Durhkeim’s social theory in a way accessible to theology. Also, here P & D is written at a very basic level that will not scare off tyros.

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