Each year I attempt to write down some of my favorite reads of the year. This year I spent a lot of time on research projects and that meant I employed commentaries and resources that don’t make “best of lists” very often. But I did run across some good books.
One clarification is necessary: I disagree with or have significant questions about the major theses of some of the books on this list. I find that many times I learn more from the books I disagree with than the ones I agree with. It makes me go back to the drawing board and ask why I disagree and many times it end up solidifying, nuancing, and strengthening my thinking on a topic.
When I look at this list, I realize I need to do more reading outside the field of biblical studies. I felt particularly overwhelmed at work this year so I don’t have much time to read outside of my field but the goal is to try to do so more.
With these comments in place here are the books in no particular order.
ECHOES OF SCRIPTURE IN THE GOSPELS – RICHARD B. HAYS
Even if one does not agree with how Hays gets to all his interpretations, the clarity and creativity of Hays’ writing is hard to ignore. I would like to see him focus more on reading forward (along with reading backward), but nonetheless, he is still one of the most important voices in the field of intertextuality and he cannot be discounted.
IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT ROOTS – KENNETH J. STEWART
I picked up this book at ETS and devoured it. Stewart argues that evangelicalism is not a flash in the pan but has ancient roots. He tackles tough objections and does it well. In sum, he argues that if you want a historic faith, you don’t have to turn to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.
FOOL’S TALK: RECOVERING THE ART OF CHRISTIAN PERSUASION – OS GUINNESS
This is one the best book on apologetics that I have read. Enough said.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT AND HUMAN FLOURISHING – JONATHAN T. PENNINGTON
I don’t have this in my picture because I just realized I don’t have a copy (thanks supervisor; if you read this go ahead and send me one). I read this in its pre-publication stage and revisited the whole work that I have in PDF when I taught through the Sermon on the Mount this semester.
PAUL THE ANCIENT LETTER WRITER – JEFFERY A. D. WEIMA
I am very happy to include this book because I have not seen it on another list. Weima does not break new ground but his analysis is careful, even-handed, and quite compelling. I think along with “Interpreting the Pauline Epistles” it is the best introduction to interpreting Paul’s letters.
AWAITING THE KING – JAMES K. A. SMITH
A fine conclusion to a compelling series. It is a timely addition with the turn to public theology. I love Smith’s style of writing. I wonder how many editors told Smith he can’t write like he does, but it goes to show that if you follow all the writing advice tips, you will probably end up being a mind-numbing writer. Be yourself in your prose.
PROGRESSIVE COVENANTALISM – EDITED BY STEPHEN J. WELLUM AND BRENT E. PARKER
I can’t quite remember when I read this but I am including it here because it is a great collection of essays charting a course between dispensationalism and covenant theology. Many of these chapters are dissertations distilled into chapters and so there is a wealth of well thought-out arguments in the book.
COVENANT AND GOD’S PURPOSE FOR THE WORLD – THOMAS R. SCHREINER
Covenant is one of the most important concepts in all the Scriptures and many of the works on the topic do too much with historical backgrounds or get caught in the crosshairs of covenant theology and never escape. Schreiner’s work is a short, clear, biblical theology on the topic.
SALVATION BY ALLEGIANCE ALONE – MATTHEW W. BATES
Even if I didn’t end up being entirely convinced by Bates’ thesis, I really liked the book. Much of the book is on target and it is a good corrective, though an over corrective.
SAVED BY FAITH AND HOSPITALITY – JOSHUA W. JIPP
Jipp’s work on God as our divine benefactor and Jesus offering hospitality to us through table, bread, and water made me think of some texts in a new light.
My review of it at TGC: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/saved-by-faith-hospitality/
A MAN ATTESTED BY GOD: THE HUMAN JESUS IN THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS – J. R. DANIEL KIRK
This was an interesting book for me because I disagree with Kirk’s main thesis and also thought there were quite a few false dichotomies. At the same time, I learned a lot from this book and found myself respecting the humanity of Jesus in a greater way. The ancient church settled the issue Kirk gets at long ago, but if one wants to reflect on the “human” Jesus at a scholarly level, this is a good book to go to.
DESTROYER OF THE GODS: EARLY CHRISTIAN DISTINCTIVENESS IN THE ROMAN WORLD – LARRY W. HURTADO
I am adding this one last minute, but Hurtado is great on backgrounds and he writes this book at a learned but accessible level. I flat out loved this book. If you don’t like reading books on backgrounds I challenge you to read this one and tell me again that you don’t like background books.