It’s that time again!
*Disclaimer: Even though we had what appear to be very weighty and important books published in 2015 by John Barclay (Paul and the Gift), NT Wright (Paul and His Recent Interpreters), James D.G. Dunn (Neither Jew nor Greek), and E.P. Sanders (Paul), I have not had a chance to finish reading these, so they will not be included in this list, though probably some will appear on next year’s list!
Reading John (Cascade), by Chris Skinner – already we are hearing very good reports on the utility and clever-style of this excellent little book!
Honorable Mention: Rediscovering Jesus (IVP), by David Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards. This is a very creative and much-needed book. I have already recommended it to several people (teachers and church-folk) in passing.
Selfish Mention: I contributed to Reading Romans in Context (Zondervan), and I am pleased that many readers have mentioned to me its usefulness to students.
Lots of commentaries appeared this year, too many to mention.
Galatians (Baker), by Peter Oakes. Despite its modest length, it is one of the finest commentaries on Galatians, and I already have plans to use it as a textbook next year. I can’t say enough how well Oakes models exegetical method and good use of archaeology and social history.
Honorable Mention: John (WJK), by Marianne Meye Thompson. This nearly tied with Oakes, because Thompson’s outstanding commentary is such a useful work. It is, of course, a must-have for John commentaries.
Best Reference Work
Christian Oxyrhynchus (Baylor University Press), ed. By L. Blumell and T. Wayment. At nearly 800 pages, the editors have collected all extant written materials related to Christianity before the 5th century CE. It is quite expensive for the personal library, but certainly every theological library ought to have this volume.
Honorable Mention: A Theology of the Gospel of Mark (Zondervan), by David Garland. Almost everything Garland has written tends to be worthy of “best books” lists. This is no exception – it is a very satisfying study from an expert in Synoptics; especially strong on discipleship in Mark.
Best Language Work
Admittedly, I don’t read very many books in NT Greek studies, so please take that into account (though I did read a few this year). So, all I can say is this book was very helpful for me, and actually I was probably an ideal reader (as a non-specialist) anyway.
Advances in the Study of Greek (Zondervan), by Constantine R. Campbell. This very well-written book introduces insights from the world of linguistics and advanced Greek studies to interested amateurs like myself. Campbell proves himself to be, yet again, a great communicator, synthesizer of complex discussions, and important voice in Greek studies.
Best Annual New Book by Michael F. Bird
What? No new books this year by Michael Bird? Hmmm…we’ll just have to wait another month and a half for his Romans commentary (a meager 600 pages). Come on, Mike! Step up the production!
Best Book of “Academia”
New category – those books that are about “the guild” itself.
I (Still) Believe (Zondervan), edited by John Byron and Joel Lohr. Can a book be both sobering and inspiring? This book explores that tension of Christian vocation and academic inquiry – not always two things in conflict, but certainly strange bedfellows more than just occasionally. Buy it.
Honorable Mention: Mapping Your Academic Career (IVP), by Gary Burge. Every PhD student and professor should buy and read this book. It delivers exactly what it promises. It will (a) help you avoid very common rookie mistakes (it was, alas, too late for me), and (b) remind you that you are not alone in all the early career, mid-career, and late-career struggles and challenges. And much more.
BEST BOOK OVERALL
Okay, best saved for last.
Day of Atonement (Kregel), by David deSilva. This is historical fiction, a page-turner and loaded with insights from early Jewish life. Read it, and if you didn’t enjoy it, let me know so I can be shocked to death, become a ghost, and haunt you the rest of your life.
Honorable Mention: Becoming the Gospel (Eerdmans), by Michael J Gorman. This is an excellent study of how Paul saw the gospel as human, ecclesial participation in the life and mission of God in Jesus Christ. Good scholarship, inspiring theological interpretation, thoughtful ruminations on how folks today are embodying this vision of mission.