Saturday, October 31, 2009

Five Influential Books

Two years after Ken Brown began this "meme," Nick's list finally triggered my own list of books read during the last decade that rocked my intellectual world:
  1. Richard Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (Yale: 1989): At an SBL panel discussion of Francis Watson's, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (Continuum: 2004), Hays quipped that Watson's was the most important book on Paul's use of Scripture since his own Echoes of Scripture. I read Echoes for fun in the fall of 1999, the first semester of my Ph.D. at McMaster University. Watson still sits on my shelf waiting to be read.
  2. John Barton, Oracles of God: Perceptions of Ancient Prophecy in Israel after the Exile (1986; repr. Oxford: 1988): I read Barton in Jerusalem in the fall of 2000, on the recommendation of Michael Stone. Barton combined with a number of other factors to severely jostle my conservative evangelical doctrine of Scripture. His insights into later Jewish perceptions of biblical prophecy are foundational to my own work on prophecy in early Judaism and Christianity. As evidence of its importance, a full issue of the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures was devoted to the book on its 20th anniversary. Fortunately, it is now back in print.
  3. John Goldingay, Models for Scripture (Eerdmans: 1994): If Barton inadvertently shattered my doctrine of Scripture, Goldingay (read 2001-2002) helped put the pieces back together. Richard Bauckham called it a "study of the doctrine of Scripture that moves us decisively beyond both the old defensive conservatism and the old rationalistic liberalism."
  4. Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906; trans. 1961): I read Schweitzer in 2003-2004 after hearing Dale Allison recommend it enthusiastically. Paradoxically, it was reading Schweitzer's confident presentation of the results of the historical-critical method that helped convince me of its limitations. See here and here for earlier references to Schweitzer on this blog.
  5. Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The 'Lutheran' Paul and His Critics (Eerdmans: 2004): I finished Perspectives in 2006. This is the one book on this list that I return to repeatedly (whenever I work on Paul). To quote Nick: "Besides being convincing on a great many points of contention in pauline scholarship, this book is a model of good writing and the use of humour."
Honourable mention: N.T. Wright. Since it has been a decisive influence on so many other evangelical scholars, I am embarrassed to admit I only read Jesus and the Victory of God (Fortress: 1996) in 2007. Wright's early influence on me was more direct: In my final year of college, Wright gave a series of lectures at a nearby seminary that left my head spinning for days. In a good way.


Nick Meyer said...

Nice list. I'll have to read Barton sometime now. I've been intending to read Goldingay's "Models" for sometime since you first mentioned.

Ken Brown said...

Great list! I have to say though, I found Westerholm's book frustrating. It's a nice introduction to the issues, but it skates over some pretty big problems with the Old Perspective, and in the end seems to owe more to the New Perspective than Westerholm admits.

Along with Nick, I've had Goldingay's volume on my shelf for a while and haven't gotten around to reading it. Maybe I need to move it up the reading list.