I started this blog five years ago and thought it was a good time to revisit the most thought provoking biblical studies books I’ve read since then. Note that I don’t necessarily endorse the arguments of the following titles (though I happen to agree largely with many of them). I like them for the way they grab our attention and challenge us to see things we may not be inclined to see, for better or worse. So here they are, the most stimulating books of 2005-2009 — a baker’s dozen of them, so there’s no chance of being shortchanged. I’ve reviewed all of them (see hyperlinks).
1. Resurrecting Jesus, Dale Allison (2005). For the best study of the resurrection, and brilliant essays about the relationship between the historical Jesus and modern needs.
2. Gospel Hoax, Stephen Carlson (2005) & The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled, Peter Jeffrey (2006). For putting Morton Smith’s defenders in an embarrassing spotlight, and forcing unavoidable questions about academic integrity.
3. The Deliverance of God, Douglas Campbell (2009). For a massive appraisal of the New Perspective and opposing theories of salvation in Paul’s writings.
4. New Testament Theology, Philip Esler (2005). For a powerful explanation as to why theology should be more about dialogue/communion (and disagreement) with the biblical authors than about liking what they have to say.
5. The Symbolic Jesus, William Arnal (2005). For underlining how agenda-driven the question of Jesus’ Jewishness is, no matter what side of the fence we’re on.
6. The Ethics of Obscene Speech in Early Christianity and its Environment, Jeremy Hultin (2008). For an incredibly fascinating survey of something I love to use: foul language.
7. The Background and Content of Paul’s Cultic Atonement Metaphors, Stephen Finlan (2005). For a sharp assessment of Paul’s different and contradictory death metaphors, which blend together and work despite themselves.
8. The End of Biblical Studies, Hector Avalos (2007). For arguing that the discipline of biblical studies is a waste of time. (But it’s fun, Hector!)
9. Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas, April DeConick (2006). For an oral approach to the layering of Thomas –- a breath of fresh air, and much needed alternative to Patterson, Koester, and Arnal.
10. A Marginal Jew (Vol IV): Law and Love, John Meier (2009). For putting the classic criteria into action big time, while showing they can only do so much for us, despite the author’s confidence.
11. Jesus in an Age of Terror, James Crossley (2009). For showing how liberal scholars can unwittingly play into the hands of conservative pundits and culture critics when analyzing the Middle-East.
12. Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective, Francis Watson (2007). For taking the best of the New Perspective and pointing to a beacon that promises more and better.
13. Jesus and His Death, Scot McKnight (2005). For an amazing analysis of the historical Jesus’ understanding of the way his death would atone –- you might be surprised this book was written by an evangelical for the way it banishes plenty of gospel testimony (ransom redemption, covenant ideas, etc.) to post-Easter developments.