Friday, January 03, 2014

2013 Reading Highlights

It’s time again for my annual survey of reading highlights (you can find past entries here for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012).  As is evident, my 2013 list does not mean that these books were first published in 2013 (in fact, none were), but it simply means I read them in the past year.  Here are ten books I enjoyed (listed in no particular order):

1.  David C. Parker, Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament (Oxford University Press, 2012):  186 pp.

This is Parker’s 2011 Lyell Lecture at Oxford University on the current state of text criticism.  Parker rejects the quest for the “original” text and also overthrows the textual theories of Westcott and Hort.

2.  Gary Burge, et al., The New Testament in Antiquity:  A Survey of the New Testament Within Its Cultural Contexts (Zondervan, 2009):  479 pp.

Burge and his co-authors (all professors at Wheaton) have produced an accessible, college level textbook which focuses on the historical backgrounds of the New Testament while generally defending traditional positions on authorship, dating, etc.  This is now my preferred textbook for teaching Introduction to the NT.

3.  Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity (HarperOne, 1996):  246 pp.

Stark applies contemporary sociological method to early Christianity and overthrows numerous stereotypes (e.g., early Christianity was misogynistic).  In the end, he argues that Christianity triumphed, because it offered a superior way of life.

4.  Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity:  How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion (HarperCollins, 2011):  506 pp.

Stark’s Rise of Christianity sent me to this longer and more popular work which summarizes not only his ideas on the sociology of early Christianity but also arguments Stark has put forward in other works, including how Christianity ended slavery, how it produced capitalism and science, and why the Crusades have been given a bad rap.

5.  Charles H. Talbert, Ed. Reimarus: Fragments (Fortress, 1970):  279 pp.

Hermann Samuel Reimarus’ Fragments were published posthumously by the German literary critic G. E. Lessing from 1714-1718 and opened the Pandora’s Box of Enlightenment era radical skepticism regarding the historicity of the Gospels and the life of Jesus.  Reimarus, therefore, was the grandfather of skeptics from the Jesus Seminar to Reza Aslan.

6.  Thomas Vincent, The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture (first published, 1674; Banner of Truth reprint, 1980):  282 pp.

I have been using this classic work as a guide in my Sunday afternoon sermon series through the Baptist Catechism.

7.  M. L. Todd and T. W. Higginson, Eds., Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson (Gramercy Books, 1982):  256 pp.

This book was on my nightstand for several months as I slowly made my way through these poems from the 19th century recluse who died in obscurity and spent much time contemplating time, eternity, and death.  Sadly, her rejection of an orthodox, Biblical worldview left her with little hope, but how gifted she was with language!

8.  David Alan Black and David R. Beck, Eds., Rethinking the Synoptic Problem (Baker Academic, 2001):  160 pp.

These papers come from a 2000 seminar at Southeastern Baptist Seminary on the Synoptic Problem and feature evangelical scholars (D. Bock and Scot McKnight) defending modern theories of Q and Markan Priority and William Farmer defending the revival of the Griesbach Hypothesis (or “Two Gospel Hypothesis”).  It helped confirm my rejection of Markan Priority.

9.  Edward J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament, Revised Edition (Eerdmans, 1960, 1973):  432 pp.

Young was thoroughly familiar with modern historical-critical study of the Old Testament, yet rejected it in defending the inspiration, authority, and infallibility of the Old Testament from a confessional perspective. I read through this work while teaching Old Testament survey and used it as a balance and counterpoint to modern textbooks.

10.  David Miller, AWOL on the Appalachian Trail (Mariner, 2011):  330 pp.

I picked up this book this summer at the bookstore near Clingman’s Dome (the highest point in Tennessee).  This is a lively memoir of a through-hike on the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mt., Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine from a secular man seeking meaning in life.

Other notable reads in 2013:

New Testament Studies:  David Alan Black, Why Four Gospels?  The Historical Origins of the Gospels, Second Ed. (Energion, 2001, 2010); Craig L. Blomberg,  Jesus and the Gospels:  An Introduction and Survey, 2nd Ed. (B & H Academics, 2009); D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Ed. (Zondervan, 1992, 2005); David Wenham, Did St. Paul Get Jesus Right?  The Gospel According to Paul (Lion, 2010); Philip Jenkins, Hidden Gospels:  How the Search for Jesus Lost its Way (Oxford, 2001).

Old Testament Studies:  Tremper Longman, III, Introducing the Old Testament:  A Short Guide to Its History and Message (Zondervan, 2012); Carl E. Amerding, The Old Testament and Criticism (Eerdmans, 1983); Marc Zvi Brettler, How to Read the Jewish Bible (Oxford, 2007); Mark Gignilliat, A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism:  From Benedict Spinoza to Brevard Childs (Zondervan, 2012).

Theology, philosophy, and apologetics:  Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation (Knopf, 2006); D. Scott Meadows, God’s Astounding Grace:  The Doctrines of Grace (Pillar & Ground, 2012);  W. Gary Crampton, A Concise Theology of Karl Barth (Whitefield Media, 2012); John W. Robbins and Sean Gerety, Not Reformed at All:  Medievalism in “Reformed Churches” (Trinity Foundation, 2004); Paul Strathern, Socrates in 90 Minutes (Ivan R. Dee, 1997)

Practical Theology:  Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (Crossway, 2007); Hal Brunson, The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror:  Two Parables of Paedobaptism and One Parable of the Death of Christ (iuniverse, 2007); Tom Wells, Does Baptism Mean Immersion?  A Friendly Inquiry Into the Ongoing Debate (Audubon Press, 2000).

Puritans:  Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance (1668; Banner of Truth, 1987); John Owen, “Of the Divine Original, Authority, Self-Evidencing Light, and Power of the Scriptures” and “A Vindication of the Purity and Integrity of the Hebrew and Greek Texts of the Old and New Testament,” in Collected Works, Vol. 16 (Banner of Truth, 1968).

Biography and Memoir:  Guy Clark Rogers, Alexander:  The Ambiguity of Greatness (Random House, 2004); Deborah Feldman, Unorthodox:  The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots (Simon & Schuster, 2012).
Children's Devotional:  Derek Prime, Tell Me About The Ten Commandments (Moody Press, 1967, 1969); Various, Stories of the Huguenots in France and Italy for Younger People (Sprinkle, 2004).

Poetry and Fiction:  Douglas Wilson, Evangellyfish (Canon Press, 2012); Peter Porter, Ed. Great English Poets:  Christina Rosetti (Potter, 1986); Henning Mankel, Faceless Killers (Vintage, 1991, 1997); The Dogs of Riga (1992, 2001); Colin Dexter, Last Bus to Woodstock (1975, 1989); The Remorseful Day (Fawcett, 1999).

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