Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Christian starter kit

This morning, coincidentally enough, I was asked by two Christians to recommend a set of must-read books for Christian laymen.

I’m skimpy on the creation/evolution debate because there’s so much information that’s available online.

My subject divisions are a bit arbitrary, but it’s better than nothing.

Okay, here goes:


David Baker, ed. Biblical Faith & Other Religions

Paul Barnett, The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years

F. F. Bruce, The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament

John Byl, God & Cosmos

_____. The Divine Challenge

Winfried Corduan, A Tapestry of Faiths

_____. Neighboring Faiths

Ed Komoszewski et al. Reinventing Jesus

John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God

Os Guinness, Long Journey Home

Gary Habermas & Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus

Paul Helm, The Divine Revelation

J. P. Moreland, Christianity & the Nature of Science

Victor Reppert, C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea

Ken Samples, Without a Doubt

Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ

Cornelius Van Til, Why I Believe in God (available online)

Kurt Wise, Faith, Form, and Time

E. J. Young, In the Beginning


Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels

F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (available online).

Kenneth Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament

V. Philips Long, The Art of Bible History

John Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context


T. Desmond Alexander, From Paradise to the Promised Land

Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction

Craig Blomberg, Jesus & the Gospels

D. A. Carson & Douglas Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament

Walter Kaiser & D. Garrett, eds. Archeological Study Bible

John Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative


Darrell Bock, The Missing Gospels

F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture

David Trobisch, The First Edition of the New Testament


T. Desmond Alexander, The Servant King

Paul Barnett, Jesus & the Rise of Christianity

Darrel Bock, Jesus According to Scripture

F. F. Bruce, Jesus: Lord & Savior

Edmund Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery

Murray J. Harris, Three Crucial Questions about Jesus

Leon Morris, Jesus is the Christ

Alex Motyer, Look to the Rock

O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets

B. B. Warfield, The Lord of Glory

N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God


O. Palmer Robertson, The Israel of God

Vern Poythress, Understanding Dispensationalists


D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies

Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth

John Frame, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God

Vern Poythress, God-Centered Interpretation

Kevin Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text?


Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology

John Frame, The Doctrine of God

Paul Helm, The Providence of God

Anthony Hoekema, Saved by Grace

Thomas Schreiner, Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology


John Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord

Paul Helm, The Beginnings; The Callings; The Last Things.

John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished & Applied

J. I. Packer, Concise Theology


Some books of the Bible are more foundational to Christian theology than others, so, for purposes of this “starter kit,” I’ll be selective:


John Currid

John Walton

Bruce Waltke


John Currid

Alec Motyer

Douglas Stuart

Then watch for the forthcoming commentaries by T. Desmond Alexander and Allen Ross.


John Hartley

Elmer Smick

Then watch for Tremper Longman’s forthcoming commentary.


Alas, we’re not ideally served on the Psalter at present. VanGemeren is the default choice.

My suggestion: Buy Geoffrey Grogan’s Prayer, Praise & Prophecy: A Theology of the Psalms.

Then wait for Gordon Wenham’s forthcoming commentary.


Bruce Waltke

Then wait for Tremper Longman’s forthcoming commentary.


Derek Kidner


Tom Gledhill


Alex Motyer


Actually, I think new Christians should steer clear of the apocalyptic books. But since that admonition will fall on deaf ears:

Daniel Block

Iain Duguid


Alas, we’re not ideally served on Daniel. By default selection would be Joyce Baldwin and Tremper Longman

Then watch for Terence Mitchell’s forthcoming commentary.


Craig Blomberg

D. A. Carson

R. T. France

Craig Keener

France is also slated to do a bigger commentary on Matthew in the NICNT series


Darrell Bock


Several good choices. At a minimum:

F. F. Bruce

D. A. Carson

Craig Keener

Andreas Kostenberger


Thomas Schreiner


Harold Hoehner

Peter O’Brien


We’re not ideally served on Galatians. My default choice would be F. F. Bruce and Philip Ryken.

Then wait for D. A. Carson’s forthcoming commentary.


Alas, we’re not ideally served on Hebrews. My default choice would be F. F. Bruce and R. T. France (Ellingworth is good on Greek usage).

Then wait for the forthcoming commentaries by D. A. Carson and Peter O’Brien.


Gregory Beale

Vern Poythress

Then watch for D. A. Carson’s forthcoming commentary.


  1. I'd add The Temple and the Church's Mission by G.K. Beale. He develops much of what he wrote in Revelation there. As a unifying theme underwritten by the covenants, it makes a great deal of sense, and helps inform the readers' understanding of the OT and eschatology in particular.

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  3. On the issue of the canon:

    I've already read "Stolen Identity" (Peter Jones), "The Books the Church Suppressed" (Green), and "Reinventing Jesus" (Komoszewski, et. al.).

    Does Bock's "The Missing Gospels" have anything new?

  4. The reason I pointed out Beale was that he does a pretty good job on Ezekiel's temple vision. It's not a commentary on Ezekiel, but, in terms of a unifying eschatological theme, the Temple motif is pretty important, and he integrates his material quite well.

    For Baptist History, I'd recommend The Baptists by Tom Nettles. It's 3 volumes. 1 and 2 are currently available. Number 3 is forthcoming.

    Folks need a good church history survey. In terms of readability for laymen, The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzales can't be beat, in my opinion. You can also by both volumes in a single volume for half the price or better if you go to Christianbook.com right now, so it's remarkably well priced. This is also a standard survey text in seminaries.

    A comprehensive volume for NT Intro: NT Introduction by Guthrie. It's a tome, but this was my textbook for NT Intro with Maurice Robinson. He had us research ten footnotes a week and report on them for class that year. It's worth having in terms of a one stop shop.

    The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel by Blomberg is also quite good, if a bit technical for the layman.

    I'd also throw in Biblical Theology by Vos.

    Systematics: A New Systematic Theology by Reymond. It's new in that it interacts some with Open Theism and a few other hot items. You'll find the tools to deal with them in the older theologies, but you won't find them interacting with these newer issues. Likewise, for the layman, his sections on the doctrines of grace and the exegetical objections raised against them is superb and easy to understand.

    If you can find William Whitaker's Disputations on Holy Scripture, it's a must have, as is the 3 part series Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith by David King and William Webster. This latter set of books interacts with current RCC apologists.

  5. I believe that Whitaker's classic treatise is available at www.swrb.com.

  6. I don't think we have an ideal systematic theology at this point because such a work would need to combine the expertise of an exegetical theologian (in both testaments) with the expertise of a philosophical theology. Given the specialization of knowledge, we're beyond the point where one man commands the interdisciplinary expertise to pull this off in equal measure.

    In the future it would be best to have a collaborative work.

  7. I would add Larry Hurtado's Lord Jesus Christ, although rather higher critical in its approach.

    Also, Wenham's Paul: Follower of Christianity.

    Also, van Voorst: Jesus Outside the New Testament

    Finally, stuff by G.E. Ladd.

  8. I agree, Steve. I have I think 7 in my library. IMO, Reymond's the best choice from the current crop from a Reformed perspective. However, I'd like to see a new edition with sections for Baptists written by somebody like Greg Welty to provide a Particular Baptist perspective. I know Dr. Reymond is following his confession, but I think he gives short shrift to Baptist perspectives. Having another perspective on those issue particular to us would help tremendously in terms of making a systematic that works across more than one tradition.

  9. I also enjoy Millard Erickson's books because of the way he presents issues.

    There is a problem because many of the best books in terms of their value as surveys aren't necessarily the best in terms of doctrine.

  10. Wow, cool, I just noticed that Carson and Moo's Intro to the NT is available online for free here!

  11. Hey guys. I was wondering if you know if Paul Ellingworth teaches Hebrews anywhere...if so where? Or if there are any other top scholars on Hebrews who teach a course in it?

    BTW-I just finished Revelation as a sermon series and I used Poythress & Beale as my two top commentaries. Excellent recommendation for those two. I recommend Poythress to help you develop sermon outline/preaching schedules and Beale on exegetical help.