Thinking Out Loud

June 14, 2018

Books about The Book

Many years ago I was given a copy of something titled What’s the Best Book? It was an obviously homemade production — the type of thing you’d get printed and bound at Office Max — and for each book of the Bible it offered three of the best commentaries. On the front cover it proudly stated, “Published by Farrell’s Ice Cream” and an address which I believe was in Florida.* Despite this, I saw the value in such a compilation; this was truly someone’s labor of love.

Inside many of us is an unfulfilled Bible nerd. Though we can’t put Bible College or Seminary on our resumés, we love researching topics for the weekly Bible Study and having an ample supply of Bible reference materials on the shelf. We’d never dare quote Greek — at least out loud — but our inner scholar is always just a breath away from bursting forth.

This week I was truly blessed when a friend, now living on the other side of the continent, gifted me with a copy of Best Bible Books: New Testament Resources by John Glynn with contributions from 4 other writers; published just weeks ago by Kregel Academic. This is the Farrell’s Ice Cream book on steroids.

On a book-by-book basis, it lists the books it consider best resources and the books which are better resources and the ones which are simply good, as well as, at the end of each Biblical book’s section recommending additional books on other subjects which arise out of those texts. (The good/better/best ranking is done as each title arises alphabetically; one needs to read through the listings carefully.)

More than just a recommended list, it offers an informed rundown of the approach the author takes in each; followed by the format and usability.

It’s important to state that the books do not all receive glowing recommendations; there are some tough criticisms here which means no pastor, professor or student will end up with a resource which differed from their expectations. 

This is not a book you just sit down and read cover-to-cover, and for that reason I don’t purport that this is a review. Its benefits are toward those who want to get the right book; for those times when neither budget nor shelf-space allow multiple purchases. It’s also a resource I believe every Christian bookstore should keep handy, and every Bible College and Seminary library ought to display in a special place.

Many of the recommended books are from mainstream sources, though readers will encounter some esoteric publishers. Page counts are given but not U.S. list prices. There are some expensive titles to be sure, these types of materials don’t come cheap.

Here’s what Kregel themselves had to say about it:

There are thousands of excellent resources in the field of New Testament studies. But which tools are best for sermon preparation, topical study, research, or classroom study? In Best Bible Books, the authors review and recommend hundreds of books, saving pastors, students, and scholars time, effort, and money.

Glynn and Burer examine commentaries on every book of the New Testament, describing their approach, format, and usability; they then rank them on a scale of good, better, and best. Other chapters survey special studies for each New Testament book as well as books in related disciplines such as historical background, language resources, and hermeneutics. Also included are helpful chapters on building a must-have personal library, and identifying books that comprise the ultimate New Testament commentary collection. This is an indispensable resource for any serious student of the Bible.

Additional sections include recommended resources on general New Testament background, Jewish context, Jesus in the Gospels, and commentary series themselves.

I did say that this isn’t a book you simply read for enjoyment, but I’d like to qualify that: Seeing the different tactics used in the approach section of each listing in a section (i.e. 2 Timothy) and then following that section for each publication mentioned is truly an education in itself. It’s a reminder to ask ourselves, “How do I approach the text?”

Paperback | 336 pages | 9780825443985 | $27.99 US | $37.79 CDN 


*I believe Zondervan did something similar once. They had a book by John Kohlenberger called Words About the Word (about translation) and then did something called Books about The Book (from which I stole today’s title) but I couldn’t find evidence for it online to include here.

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