SBL Book Picks

When I arrived home (Saturday, after some travelling), I was greeted by some new books in the mail that were showcased at SBL – it was nice not to have to lug them home in my suitcase. Here are some of the books I am excited to dig into over the next few months.

C. Keith and L. Hurtado, Jesus Among Friends and Enemies (Baker) – looks like a narrative-critical approach to the study of Jesus that focuses on how “friends and enemies” perceived and interacted with him. A great host of contributors!

G. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology (Baker). While I don’t agree with some things that Beale writes, he has a good grasp on the relationship between the OT and the NT and broader theological themes in Scripture. This book is a behemoth (1000+ pages)! Based on Beale’s legacy at Gordon-Conwell (my alma mater), I immediately turned to the appendix to see if Meredith Kline was cited in this book. Not only does Beale work extensively with Kline’s work, he dedicates the book to Meredith Kline and Gordon Hugenberger. Beale works with classic evangelical salvation-historical themes: inaugurated eschatology, kingdom imagery, and new creation. He also infuses it with his own work on the themes of idolatry and temple. Personally, I appreciate this story-form approach that Beale takes to the book over the “book-by-book” version of some NT theologies. There are disadvantages to the story/thematic approach, but I find it preferential. I probably won’t read this cover-to-cover, but I will try and give it enough of a deep reading to review it fairly.

James W. Thomson, Moral Formation According to Paul (Baker). You may know that Pauline ethics is a serious interest of mine. While the theoretical work has been done by a number of good scholars (Rosner, Hays, Furnish, etc…), Thompson’s work seems to bring a bit of a fresh view with his work on the ethics of Hellenistic Judaism in comparison/contrast with Paul.

John Drane, Introducing the Bible (2nd Ed; Fortress). I have the first edition on LOGOS and I have consulted it numerous times and I have used an excerpt in class before (which students really enjoyed). I will say the second edition is stunningly beautiful – full color. At 600+ pages it comes across as substantial, but from my experience the longer the textbook, the less time students have to read the Bible itself! Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing how this edition improves upon an already excellent first one.

J. Todd Billings, Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church (Baker). Why did it take someone so long to write a book so needed for our time?! Thanks Todd for blessing the Church by retrieving this key theme. I honestly feel that if the Church would truly understand what it means to be united with Christ (in death and resurrection), we could be an unstoppable source of vitality, reconciliation, holiness, and love. Billings provides the Reformed perspective on this, which I am eager to read. I learned this theme from Methodists like Mike Gorman (cruciformity), Richard Hays (community in Christ), Jimmy Dunn (participation), Vic Furnish, and Morna Hooker (interchange). I guess we can share it… :)

Luke Timothy Johnson, Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church: The Challenge of Luke-Acts to Contemporary Christians (Eerdmans). I think the back cover text says enough for my brain to salivate:

In this and every age, the church desperately needs prophecy. It needs the bold proclamation of God’s transforming vision to challenge its very human tendency toward expediency and self-interest — to jolt it into new insight and energy. For LTJ, the NT books Luke and Acts provide that much-needed jolt to conventional norms. To read Luke-Acts as a literary unit, he says, is to uncover a startling prophetic vision of Jesus and the church — and an ongoing call for today’s church to embody and proclaim God’s vision for the world.

Is this a sermon or an academic text? I love it! Can’t wait to read it! Two of my colleagues, Jack Levison and Rob Wall, endorsed the book.

Kenneth Bailey, Paul through Mediterranean Eyes (IVP). Bailey gives his take on how the study of Mediterranean cultural issues shed light on Paul. He uses 1 Corinthians as his text of study. It weighs in at 500+ pages. When have you ever seen Mike Bird, Clifton Black, John Ortberg, and Lamin Sanneh endorse the same book?

Edward Adams, Parallel Lives of Jesus: A Guide to the Four Gospels (WJK). I have already read about two dozen pages and Adams offers a good, basic introduction to the Gospels for undergrads that sees the Gospels as four “lives of Jesus” (using Burridge’s research on the Gospels as ancient biographies). The two best things: it is short, and it is bottom shelf. Also, while Adams is a good critical scholar, he does not dwell on issues of authorship and original community. He also uses lots and lots of examples, mapped out with synoptic charts. This is truly a “textbook.” If I ever teach a course on the Gospels (alone), I might consider this.