Reading

(Warning: Beware the used or library textbook with highlighting. Do the human race a favor and don't highlight your books.)

Required reading

The Holy Bible.
I will often be reading from the RSV. For our class's purposes I prefer that you read the RSV or NRSV, especially The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version College Edition, Oxford, which our Old Testament courses also use. Also appropriate: NASB, ESV. Marginally acceptable: NIV, KJV, TNIV. Unacceptable: Message, NLT. Generally, translations on the center-left of this spectrum will work best.

Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament: an Interpretation, rev. ed., Fortress. With or without CD-ROM. First edition on reserve.
This is both a well-rounded introduction to the backgrounds and messages of the New Testament writings and a source of theological perspective on recent developments in the field of New Testament studies. Our other readings are just complements to this, our basic text.

Craig R. Koester, Revelation and the End of All Things, Eerdmans. Also on reserve.
This is a compact, readable one-volume commentary on arguably the most difficult book in the New Testament. Cutting our teeth on it together will introduce you to close reading, lexicography, the New Testament's use of the Old, the apocalyptic eschatology that runs through the whole New Testament, the church's centrality to the Bible's message, alternative strategies and traditions of biblical interpretation, and a few of the many uses of the Bible in the life of the Church. These are a lot of aspects of biblical studies to learn from one text, but Koester brings them together for a reading of Revelation I hope you find more plausible than many that circulate today.

Ann Monroe, The Word: Imagining the Gospel in Modern America, Westminster. Also on reserve.
In our Bible course we need to become aware not just of the Bible but how we are reading it. This engaging critique of liberal and conservative America's various ways of reading the Bible comes from a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Against both schools of interpretation, she favors approaches in which the Bible remains relatively free to speak for itself.

Bruce N. Fisk, Interpretation Bible Studies: First Corinthians, Geneva. Also on reserve.
This winsome reader's guide to 1 Corinthians from my Westmont colleague introduces a text that is especially fruitful for understanding the epistolary genre, the shape of the first-century Church, the relevance of the first-century social world of the Roman Empire, the apostolate and pastorate of Paul, and his synthesis of the story of Jesus Christ and the scriptures of Israel.

Neil Anderson with Hyatt Moore, In Search of the Source: A First Encounter with God's Word, Multnomah.
We are all Bible translators. In this simple narrative a missionary encounters the challenges and rewards of conveying the Bible's message into a totally new environment. The book is out of print; you will be responsible for obtaining your own. I will keep my copy on reserve at the library for you to use.

Gerd Theissen, The Shadow of the Galilean, Fortress.
This novelization brings the world of Jesus to life through an informant in Pontius Pilate's service. Theissen's tour of first century Palestine retells the story of Jesus with the attention to historical context the gospels' original readers probably took for granted.

Telford Work, various articles, links on the syllabus.
As a professor of theology, part of my job is research and writing: popular articles and oral presentations, scholarly articles, lectures, and books, and institutional discourse of various kinds. I have assigned articles and chapters from books I am in the midst of writing because they can teach you my approach to the Bible, give you a sense of what I know and teach, and expose you to my craft at the intermediate and advanced as well as beginning levels.

Some of these readings are very easy to understand, while others are more difficult. Some will be over your head. But it won't be over your head forever if you treat this course as one early step in a lifelong journey of Christian inquiry, rather than a remedial or elementary class you will grow out of as you "mature." You might choose to neglect or ignore or dismiss Christian theology — though I hope you don't — but you cannot outgrow it!

For students with poor writing skills, my classes also feature conditionally required reading.

In-course honors reading

The Holy Bible.
I will often be reading from the RSV. For our purposes I prefer that you read the RSV or NRSV, especially The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version College Edition (Oxford), which our Old Testament courses also use. Also appropriate: NASB, ESV. Marginally acceptable: NIV, KJV, TNIV. Unacceptable: Message, NLT. Generally, translations on the center-left of this spectrum will work best.

Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament: an Interpretation, 2d ed., Fortress. First edition on reserve.
This is both a well-rounded introduction to the backgrounds and messages of the New Testament writings and a source of theological perspective on recent developments in the field of New Testament studies. Our other readings are just complements to this, our basic text.

Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, Cambridge. Rather than Koester, honors students will read this theological analysis of the book of Revelation from a first-rate scholar of the Bible, Christian theology, and the first century.

Ann Monroe, The Word: Imagining the Gospel in Modern America, Westminster. Also on reserve.
In our Bible course we need to become aware not just of the Bible but how we are reading it. This engaging critique of liberal and conservative America's various ways of reading the Bible comes from a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Against both schools of interpretation, she favors approaches in which the Bible remains relatively free to speak for itself.

Richard Hays, The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul As Interpreter of Israel's Scripture, Eerdmans. Also on reserve.
Paul read the Bible too! Rather than reading Fisk, honors students will read this series of essays by Fisk's (and my) New Testament teacher at Duke, Richard Hays. Hays has distinguished himself as one of the best readers of the ways the Apostle Paul read the Scriptures of Israel as a trained rabbi who believed Jesus was the Messiah.

Wes Howard-Brook and Sharon H. Ringe, eds., The New Testament: Introducing the Way of Discipleship, Orbis.
"Political readings" of Scripture de-emphasize the spiritual, interior tilt of classical western theology and spirituality and reveal underlying political and social dimensions in the Bible that are basic to its meaning. These are selections of political commentaries on New Testament passages. They will serve as a fuller substitute to the glimpses into social-historical biblical criticism Fisk and Theissen offer.

Keith Hopkins, A World Full of Gods: The Strange Triumph of Christianity, Plume.
Hopkins is a revisionist historian of early Christianity whose quirky and often antagonistic treatments of paganisms, Judaisms, and Christianities in the worlds of the Roman Empire expose you to modern historical study of Christianity. Where Anderson and Moore show you the gospel crossing cultures in the hands of missionaries, this text shows honors students the Christian tradition crossing into postmodernity in the hands of a self-described "Protestant atheist."

Richard Bauckham, ed., The Gospels for All Christians, Eerdmans. Also on reserve.
Instead of Theissen's biographical introduction to Jesus in his historical setting, honors students will read some recent (and rather subversive, in an orthodox way) scholarship on the form, history, and content of the gospels. Bauckham's thesis that the gospels were written not by and for isolated, enigmatic communities but for the networked churches of the Roman Empire is an expert's well substantiated cry that the emperor of mainstream critical gospels scholarship is embarrassingly underdressed.

There is always more reading for after the course is over. Here are guidelines on finding it and some reading suggestions from my own library.

Course
Vision
Reading
Tasks
Schedule
MATERIALS
Rules of the Game
Pointers for Presentations
Preparing to Preach
A Few (Strong) Suggestions on Essay Writing
Peer Review Guidelines
Review Form (PDF)