What I Look For In a Textbook

Firstly, happy thanksgiving!

Ok, a perceptive commenter asked what I look for in a good textbook. Here are a few things:

(1) SIMPLE – scholars rarely really understand just how little students know. Keep it simple. If you give advanced information, do so in an appendix or in footnotes.

(2) CLEAR – going along with #1, make sure the textbook progresses in a clear way, from paragraph to paragraph and chapter to chapter. I am using a textbook next quarter which is not as clear as I would like, though it is as simple as I would like.

(3) Graphics – charts, maps, diagrams, and pictures really do make a textbook more appealling for me.

(4) End of chapter quick summary – to help with clarity and simplicity!

(5) For Biblical Studies, textbooks should engage with the “so what” question when it comes to what information to include. Too many texts offer random facts and background information without really dealing with WHAT THE TEXT (e.g. NT, or OT) is REALLY ABOUT. Perhaps this is a conscious ideological choice. So be it. I am looking for more. It can be general or exploratory, but it needs to be more than just “facts”.

(6) Good bibliographies at end of chapters – best if it is annotated.

(7) Avoiding ideological extremes (e.g., extreme either in naive orthodoxy [=apologetics] or pure skepticism [=hermeneutic of suspicion])

I am sure there are other things. For me, cover design is attractive, but I try not to judge… 🙂

New James Dunn Book Coming in Spring 2011

When I walked past the Eerdmans stall at SBL, there was a poster board for a new book from James D.G. Dunn called Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels. By doing a bit of internet research, I discovered that, while the book sells itself as a “primer” for New Testament studies, it appears to be a number of lectures that Dunn has given in the past that have been brought together into a collection. In any case, I am excited for more published work from this great scholar.

Here are some topics that will be covered:

  • Where, why, and how the Gospels were written and what we should expect from them
  • The reliability and historicity of the Gospels
  • The continuing significance of the Apostle Paul and his teaching
  • Points of continuity and discontinuity between the teaching of Jesus and of Paul — and how to bridge the two


Amazon has a street-release of March 31, Eerdmans webpage has April 29. So, maybe May or June…