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.

January 12, 2017

Building a Bible Reference Library

The chart that follows was produced many years ago by Thomas Nelson. It may exist online now, but when I tried to track it down about a year ago I couldn’t locate it; so I was quite pleased to find it yesterday in a pile of papers.

Many of the suggested Bible reference tools listed below are now available online, to the point where it’s possible to need a particular nugget of information, and not necessarily classify it as to the type of information required. The internet probably blurs the distinctions below.

Look at the graphic and then scroll down for my comments on each element. Click the image to view full size.

bible-reference-library

Tier One The Bible itself is foundational and there’s no point building a library about it without actually owning several good ones.

Tier TwoConcordances — listing occurrences of particular words in particular translations — are somewhat obsolete with what our desktop computers and phones can do. Still, a dictionary of Bible terms is helpful, but you need to be careful you’re not using a theological or religious dictionary. For example, the term trinity isn’t found in scripture, so a Bible dictionary won’t necessarily contain it. However, that may be the very thing you wish to examine, so then you’d want to additionally own a theological dictionary, or find a Bible encyclopedia that combines both.

Tier Three – I think that every Christian should have some familiarity with an in-depth commentary; the type that focuses on a single book, or the one-volume kind. Again, if you’re doing this online instead, you need to know it’s commentary you’re looking for. I would also argue that a Bible handbook, providing summaries of each book, should be moved up a tier. It’s something that new Christians often find most helpful. Word Study is a challenging field referring the etymology (origin) of key words in the original (Greek and Hebrew) languages and not everybody is ready for it. Still it’s good to have experience seeing how these books are constructed, or online, knowing it’s word study you’re looking for.

Tier Four – Right now books on life in Bible times are very much in demand as people seek to better understand the context and culture which brings passages to life. The second suggested resource, a study guide is probably what you already use in your home church group during the week and I expect the suggestion here is that you would be collecting many of these as you work through particular books. Bible maps are something I never placed great importance in, but I’m now seeing the value of them more than I did in my early Christian experience. Topical Bibles are helpful; even if you’re doing a verse-by-verse look at scripture it’s good to pause and consider the themes the passage presents in greater detail. 

Omitted – The chart makes no reference to the devotional genre, which I believe is necessary to make the Bible personal; otherwise all these books are just about hoarding information. I would also contend that in building a library like the one envisioned here, a foundational book on apologetics would be good to own. Others might argue that a prayer guide, such as Operation World are fundamental to the realization that the Church of Jesus Christ extends far beyond our local congregation, our region or even our nation. For those who have pursued a formal Christian education, the lack of a book on systematic theology is probably the most glaring omission. There are some books which simplify this and help new believers see the various pieces of the puzzle.

January 22, 2014

Wednesday Link List

link-list-basic

So, if you’re following the saga, sometime in late June we agreed to make the Wednesday Link List part of Out of Ur, which is part of Leadership Journal, which is part of Christianity Today, which was founded by Carl F. Henry, who was not related to Buck Henry. But then, last weekend, Leadership Journal officially rolled out PARSE which is where each of the links below takes you… you can click through from there.

To celebrate our first official PARSE column, we bring you both quality and quantity this week…

Link sleuth Paul Wilkinson is also available to DJ your next youth group meeting or help you herd your cats. He writes these little disclaimers at the end of the list for CT/PARSE readers and sometimes forgets to remove them here.

Trouble reading this? We’re experimenting with leaving out the “<big>” tag on each line for the first time; but if it’s small for ya, we’ll update midday. This classic blog theme has a default that’s somewhat miniscule.

Our closing graphic is from a collection of 30 mean letters written by kids.

Dear Uncle Bryan

September 12, 2012

Wednesday Link List

It’s been awhile since we included a Naked Pastor cartoon; click the image to read more.

 

May 14, 2012

Monday Link List

Rejected from the position of Wednesday List Lynx, this one wants to know if a mascot position for a Monday List Lynx is opening up.

Monday?

Because (a) there’s no law against it, and (b) some of these just couldn’t wait!

  • That’s Dr. Gloria Gaither to you, as the southern gospel songstress receives an honorary doctorate in music from Nyack College, a Christian and Missionary Alliance school in New York.
  • Okay, we just lost our younger demographic. So, in the interest of equal time, Hawk Nelson now has a new lead singer.
  • In other music news, here’s 15 Tips for Bloggers from John Newton, the “Amazing Grace” guy and brother to Fig. I hope my family doesn’t notice #14.
  • You don’t usually think of English language Bible commentaries as being tainted by Western culture, but you will upon learning about the Africa Study Bible.
  • The daughter of Teen Mania founder Ron Luce was the only survivor of a weekend plane crash involving five people heading to a youth conference
  • Is it possible that the study saying that religious people are less compassionate is true? Or are they giving more out of moral obligation than emotional response?
  • Here’s a debrief of the movie Courageous; all the movie trivia and hidden details you never knew. And now you know the rest of the story.
  • For those who need to know, here’s a list of all the Christian colleges that have a gay-friendly organizations on or off campus. Is that Wheaton I see on this list? And Biola?
  • Philip Yancey pays the price of frequent mountain climbing in Colorado and undergoes knee surgery. He also explains what they do to make sure it’s the right correct knee.
  • Tony Jones writes, “Catholicism in America seems to continue its quest for irrelevance via misogyny;” and then reblogs a CNN story about a Catholic school that would rather forfeit a championship game than play a team fielding a girl on second base.
  • The proprietors of a Canadian website design company have a background in film production, which creates many different options for churches and Christian organizations.
  • E. Parson Ross isn’t the first person to do this, but her new book on Church Etiquette should be of help to the uninitiated.
  • The 133 member choir, Only Boys Aloud was amazing on Britain’s Got Talent, but this translation of their song’s lyrics shows it was actually a hymn; though the performance is inspiring in any language.
  • Apparently Satan doesn’t want people attending Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, South Carolina; or so two billboards in town say.
  • Many more to come — Lord willing — on Wednesday

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