My Public Lecture Now FREE on Itunes U (Gupta)

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A couple of weeks ago, I gave a public lecture at George Fox University with this title: “People of Faith”: Why the First Christians Called Themselves ‘Believers'”

I was deeply appreciative of those who turned up on the day, but several others reached out to me to say they could not make it. Thankfully, GFU video-recorded the lecture and has now posted it to Itunes U (free).

I have long term plans to turn this into a book on earliest Christian religion and how the faith, courage, and creativity of those Christians then can fan the flame of our faith today.

To get access, click on the image below. If you enjoy the lecture, please rate it positively. Feel free to leave questions about my lecture here in the blog comments. (Impolite or cruel comments will not be approved.)

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Preaching Romans—A Quick Look (Gupta)

A Quick Look

In the new year, the book that I was most looking forward to reading was Preaching Romans, edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph Modica. This book boasts an impressive list of contributors: Stephen Westerholm, Scot McKnight, Douglas Campbell, Michael Gorman, Michael Bird, James D.G. Dunn, Fleming Rutledge, William Willimon, Tim Gombis, Richard Hays, and Suzanne Watts Henderson (and more).

Preaching RomansThere are two unique dimensions of this book—it is not just “another book” on Romans. First, it lays out four approaches to Paul and how one’s reading of Romans would be affected: Lutheran, New Perspective, Apocalyptic, and Participationist. Secondly, the book includes sermons that exemplify preferences for each of these categories. When I think about how academic biblical scholarship can be more accessible and “user-friendly” for pastors and lay-people, the inclusion of sermons is very attractive.

This was a wonderfully enriching and easy read, mostly due to the arrangement of the book and the selection of winsome and engaging writers. Here are some assorted notes:

  • Westerholm leads off on the Lutheran approach; as one might guess, there is a large focus on Romans 1-4, but I found his essay very compelling. It is hard to get around the fact that Paul talks a lot about human sin and its consequences, and the need for justification/salvation from God.
  • The New Perspective (represented esp. by McKnight and Dunn) puts a strong emphasis on socio-historical context, and rightly so. Romans is not a generic theological essay. McKnight is right to recommend “reading Romans backwards,” and paying careful attention to challenges and problems in the belieiving community in Rome that are end-loaded in Romans 12-16.
  • While it is helpful from a heuristic standpoint to have 4 “different views,” it becomes clear that there is some overlap and blurry boundary lines. That is to say, some scholars fit multiple categories. Mike Bird, for example, is deeply sympathetic to old perspectives (hence his categorization in this volume), New Perspective (esp. given his close relationship with NTW), and participation in Christ. Hays is placed in the participation group, but could easily be with the New Perspective OR Apocalyptic! 

The conclusion of the book does well to avoid trying to push towards only one approach “winning.” When it comes to Romans—and Paul himself—it is just not that simple. Each view has its merits; what is helpful is making sure we are aware of our hermeneutical blindspots. This is a great academic exercise that benefits the Church, and I hope to see more works like this in the future.

Jesus according to the New Testament—according to Dunn (Gupta)

Quick Look

I have decided that some books I get and read are worth talking about, worth engaging with and sometime promoting, but ones that I don’t want to do a full-blown “review” (esp trade books and textbooks): so, here is a new type of review on this blog I call “Quick Looks.”

JaNTI have long admired the work of James D.G. Dunn (aka “Jimmy”). His Theology of Paul the Apostle is a master piece. His commentaries are spectacular (Romans, Colossians, Galatians, even his short work on the Pastoral Epistles). But he is also good at writing at the more popular level. Now well into his retirement, he has produced a very readable reflection on how Jesus is remembered and honored by the New Testament writers.

Here Dunn is not engaged with critical scholarship. With a Bible in hand, and with lay readers primarily in view, he briefly outlines what the earliest Christians thought about Jesus Christ. I think one quick lesson I learned from this book is that often biblical scholars overthink their subject of study. In many ways, Dunn looks at the New Testament as a historian of antiquity, just collecting basic information about what these ancient religionists said about Jesus. Dunn identifies lots of simple observations—but striking ones nevertheless—like Jesus’ distinctive use of abba, his interest in children, and his use of parables (according to the Evangelists).

In my opinion, this would make for great Lenten reading, simple lessons from a master scholar.

A Bible Scholar’s Guide to Preaching: Theological Resources (Gupta)


I have already offered my suggested exegetical resources (including exegetical commentaries)

Here I want to pass on my favorite theological resources to move from biblical text to theology and application


There are many good commentaries that delve into the theological dynamics of the text. Here are some worthwhile series.

BNTC (Black’s) This series balances exegetical study with theological examination

Two Horizons This unique series offers theologically-sensitive exposition, and then also thematic analysis

NTL (New Testament Library) Similar to BNTC

I would also commend reception-oriented series like IVP’s Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series and the Reformation Commentary on Scripture.

There are a few series written by theologians, not biblical scholars, but they tend to be hit-or-miss (e.g., Brazos, Belief).

Moving into the territory of “application” there are several options.

Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary This series boasts beautiful designs, numerous images and sidebars, great scholars, and a dedicated “connections” section for every major section of the biblical text. I wrote the volume on Colossians, and I serve as an editor for the supplemental series (where I also wrote the launch volume on the Lord’s Prayer).

NIVAC This series is starting to feel dated, but contains many good volumes and offers great practical reflections and “sermon fodder.” I have more volumes in this series than any other.

Story of God This new series is still in its initial releases, but has proven very promising. Again, offers lots of great everyday life reflections. Scot McKnight wrote a stellar commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.

Interpretation This series is geared more towards mainline churches. There are several extraordinary volumes (e.g., Brueggemann on Genesis, Richard Hays on 1 Corinthians, Gaventa on 1-2 Thessalonians). The aim is a blend of exposition and application.

Teach the Text Sadly, this Baker series was discontinued, but the available volumes are very good with lots of suggestive illustrations (e.g., RT France on Luke, Jeannine Brown on Matthew)

Feasting on the Word This is a lectionary-based commentary series, aiming for supporting preachers.

Other Print Resources

I have mentioned dictionaries before, but again I will recommend a few

New Dictionary of Biblical Theology

Dictionary of Biblical Imagery

Dictionary of Theological Interpretation of the Bible

There are a couple of helpful book series

New Testament Theology (Cambridge) Expensive, and a bit dense, but some volumes have become classics (e.g., Bauckham on Revelation).

Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Zondervan) This is a newer series, so not a lot of released volumes, but I have read one on Mark (David Garland) and it is incredibly rich.

“Reading” Series, Cascade (Wipf & Stock) For helpful books that break down theological themes (among other introductory matters), this is a good series; check out Reading John (Chris Skinner!), Reading Paul (Michael Gorman), Reading Acts (Josh Jipp), Reading Revelation Responsibly (Michael Gorman), and I am writing one of these on Reading Philippians.

The Bible Speaks Today This is a bit older series (though with new volumes still appearing), but I can attest that some of the books are quite insightful and well-written (e.g., The Message of Women, Derek and Diane Tidball).

New Studies in Biblical Theology (IVP) I call this the “ugly-gray-cover” series, but we ought not to judge a book by its cover! Several thematic books in this series are useful (e.g., see Craig Blomberg’s work on money; Mark Boda on repentance)

Biblical Theology for Life (Zondervan) this thematic series is picking up steam, with several praiseworthy books in recent publication, including Brian Rosner on identity, and Nick Perrin’s very recent one of the kingdom of God (which I am currently reading)

Websites for Preachers

Blogs? Ironically, I don’t really have time to read blogs, but when I do:

Michael Bird is good, Scot McKnight too; Missio Alliance has some good stuff.

Podcasts? Again, I only have a few recos

OnScript for interviews and discussions of biblical scholarship

Kingdom Roots (Scot McKnight)

Exegetically Speaking (Wheaton College)

Other Resources:

WorkingPreacher (Luther Seminary) I love this resource; preachers and Bible scholars offer expositional guides to lectionary texts. It’s fantastic!

Seven Minute Seminary (Asbury Seminary) Short (~7 minute) thematic videos on biblical and theological themes from expert scholars.



Recommended Commentaries, Philippians-Philemon

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Dr. Andy Johnson has produced a concise, annotated list of recommended commentaries for pastors on Philippians, Colossians, Philemon,  1-2 Thessalonians, and the Pastorals.


I like all of Johnson’s recommendations, but would nod to the following in addition:

Philippians  – Morna Hooker has a stellar commentary in the NIB (New Interpreter’s Bible, Abingdon) series, with end-of-section theological reflections. For those who know Greek, the best resource is Joseph Hellerman’s EGGNT commentary, hands down.

Colossians – NT Wright’s little TNTC commentary (1989) is still extraordinarily insightful. Also, I commend David Garland’s NIVAC for helping to bring the messages of Colossians into life today.

1-2 Thessalonians – I second the value of Weima’s work. I also hasten to promote the 1982 commentary by F.F. Bruce (WBC) – despite its intimidating size and format, Bruce regularly relates these letters to ministry and life. (I wrote a non-technical commentary on 1-2 Thess as well, $15!)

Pastorals – I have yet to find a commentary on the PE that I love, but Fee’s short NIBC is helpful, and Howard Marshall’s massive ICC commentary has been a trusty resource. Perhaps my favorite for pastors is Jimmy Dunn’s NIB contribution. I have been tasked by Todd Still to write a commentary on the Pastorals for a revised series (Reading the New Testament, Helwys). I do so with fear and trembling, but very excited to help rehabilitate these oft-neglected letters.

A Bible Scholar’s Guide to Preaching: Exegetical Resources

We have offered some preliminary comments on preaching, its purposes and the mindset of the preacher. Now I want to offer some guidance on Bible study and exegetical resources. Now, it would be easy for me to go on and on with book recommendations, but I thought it be would be more helpful to offer my TOP FIVE (-ISH) recommendations for each category.

Reading the Greek Text

  1. UBS5 (Reader’s Edition). It’s elegant, state-of-the-discipline, user-friendly.Screen Shot 2019-02-13 at 11.17.29 AM
  2. Bible Software
    • Bibleworks – I have used Bibleworks for fifteen years (!). But sadly they have closed their business, so I recently purchased Accordance.
    • Accordance – this is the go-to Mac-user software; elite, powerful, but very expensive.
    • Logos – I own and use Logos a lot, but not for “reading the Greek text.” I use it for dictionaries, commentaries, and a few other things. To get a good language package, you need some $$$, but it is not unreasonable.
    • StepBible ( – this free website/app allows you to read the Greek/Hebrew text, do some basic word study, and search words in NT and Septuagint. It is the best free site I have seen for language-oriented study.
    • Interlinears? I don’t use interlinears, and I don’t really recommend them either. They are set up in a way to force you to compare English to Greek in a rigid way, and therefore the information you “glean” can be misleading. But if you are going to use one, try this:

Guides to the Exegetical Process

  1. Elements of Biblical Exegesis (Michael Gorman). This book is clear, practical, oriented towards theological interpretation, and offers some samples in the back of the book.
  2. Prima Scriptura: An Introduction to New Testament Interpretation (Clayton Croy). Digs a bit more into theory, not as good with the practicals, but very insightful and complements Gorman.
  3. Scripture and Its Interpretation: A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible (ed. Michael Gorman). Multiple contributors, lots of great topics and perspectives, very reasonably priced; but read Elements first.
  4. Inductive Bible Study (Bauer and Traina). A simple, clear, tried-and-true approach to inductive Bible study. It is crucial that the preacher learns how to study the text for themselves, and not jump right into secondary resources.
  5. The Revelatory Text: Interpreting the New Testament as Sacred Revelatory TextScripture (Sandra Schneiders). A very rewarding Catholic approach to treating the NT as sacred and special revelation, while also paying full attention to the human element of Scripture. I have all my hermeneutics students read this book before writing their exegesis papers.

Word Study Resources

  1. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (known as BDAG). It is the standard lexicon for New Testament study; overall it is reliable, but do not assume it is always correct or that all scholars agree on its findings.
  2. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains (aka, Louw-Nida). I actually prefer these definitions and glosses to BDAG overall. But I am weird.
  3. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (ed. M. Silva). A very good, detailed resource. Worth buying the set.
  4. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (EDNT). Reliable, but not mind-blowing.
  5. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (TLNT, C. Spicq). This set is not exhaustive, there are many NT Greek words you won’t find in here, but when he does have an entry, I find his thoughts very stimulating and worthwhile.
  6. Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (VGNT, or Moulton and Milligan). This unique lexicon uses inscriptions and “non-literary papyri” (i.e., personal correspondence) to inform our understanding of Greek words. Here’s the basic idea: how were these words used in everyday life and conversation? VGNT tends to be anecdotal rather than exhaustive, but always worth consulting.


  1. IVP “Black” Dictionaries. E.g., the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, etc. These sources are invaluable. There are also several excellent thematic volumes such as the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology and the Dictionary of New Testament Backgrounds. (LINK TO SET: HERE) My personal copies are well worn!
  2. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. This is a great set—up to date, leading scholars, accessible and lucid information for pastors and for Bible study. Your church should own this.
  3. Anchor-Yale Bible Dictionary. A hefty, academic set, and now a bit dated, but still a trusted standard in the guild.
  4. Dictionary of Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Baker). The entries are “hit-and-miss,” but always worth a peek. Whether you are looking up a theme, biblical book, etc., great stuff on reception, theological importance, and so forth.
  5. DSE.jpegDictionary of Scripture and Ethics (Baker). Another good thematic dictionary, I have a few entries in here.
  6. Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism. Obviously, this is very niche, but an outstanding resource for understanding Jewish ideas, traditions, and practices.

Academic, Technical Commentaries

Here I will only list series that dig into the details of the text and its ancient context. In a later post I will recommend commentaries that reflect theologically and move in the direction of application.

  1. Word Biblical Commentary (OT and NT)

Very detailed, many volumes are getting outdated, but still solid section-level bibliographies and highly competent scholarship overall.

    2. New International Commentary on the New Testament (OT = New International Commentary on the Old Testament)

Most volumes offer a blend of academic material and (light) theological exposition.

    3. New International Greek Testament Commentary (NT only)

Heavily engaged with the Greek text.

    4. Anchor Bible Commentary (OT and NT)

Generally offers a “critical” academic approach to the biblical text, but many volumes are classics.

   5. International Critical Commentary (OT and NT)

A moderate “critical” commentary that engages closely with the Greek text.

   6. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (NT only)

An evangelical series that focuses on the Greek text.

My GFU Public Lecture on Early Christian Faith (Gupta)


Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 3.45.54 PMOn March 5 (6pm), I will be giving the Spring 2019 Public Faculty Lecture at George Fox University. My title is:

People of Faith: Why the First Christians Called Themselves “Believers”

This lecture comes out of new work I am doing on why Paul and other early Christians focused on the language of faith and belief, especially in contradistinction to Roman religion.

Anyone in the Portland metro/Newberg area is welcome to this free lecture. I am told it will not be live-cast, but a recording will be posted to Itunes in late March.

For those of you in far-flung regions, I will be giving a more “academic” version of this presentation at SBL, and I am hoping to expand it into a book on Paul’s religion.

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