Top 40 Resources (Or So) For an Exegetically-Minded Preacher to Buy (Pt. 4): “Big Picture” Texts

By: Bruce Riley Ashford & Grant Taylor

The first three installments of this series dealt with exegetical tools, dictionaries, and commentaries. This installment deals with biblical theology texts, at both the scholarly and popular levels. These books provide the “big picture” which frames the individual texts that we preach and teach.

Old Testament Theology

1. Paul R. House, Old Testament Theology. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 1998. House shows the manifold benefits of deep knowledge and love of the Old Testament for the Christian faith. The book treats each OT book in order of the Hebrew canon (Law, Prophets, Writings), making connections to other OT books and the NT in each major section. It is also very well written, making it a tremendous help for preaching. Intermediate-Advanced.

2. Robin Routledge, Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2009. Routledge offers a different approach from House by working thematically through the OT. This is an excellent introduction to both the OT and OT Theology, as Routledge makes judicious decisions and includes copious footnotes that point the reader to further reading. It is also very manageable at around 350 pages. Intermediate.

New Testament Theology

1. Frank S. Thielman, Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. Thielman proceeds book-by-book through the New Testament and draws together the themes that arise from those individual books (hence the subtitle). This makes it a very helpful tool for teaching and preaching. A great first buy in the field of New Testament theology. Advanced.

2. I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2004. After an opening chapter on methodology, Marshall proceeds historically through the NT literature: from Jesus (Synoptic Gospels) to Paul (his epistles) to John’s literature and finally Hebrews and the General Epistles. Mission is the primary or central theme for Marshall (see his conclusion). A clear and helpful book. Intermediate-Advanced.

3. Thomas R. Schreiner. New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008. Schreiner’s text focuses on the themes of God’s kingdom and God’s glory, and displays exegetical and argumentative rigor, as well as lucid prose. Intermediate-Advanced.

“Big Picture” Overviews

1. Craig Bartholomew & Michael Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004. This is my (Bruce’s) favorite basic treatment of the Bible’s dramatic narrative, unfolded in six Acts: Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus, Church, New Creation. The authors are accomplished scholars in their respective fields, but manage to write a very accessible book for undergraduates and beginning seminar students. Beginner-Intermediate.

2. Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000. How does one preach the Bible with exegesis, commentary, and biblical theology in mind? Goldsworthy’s subtitle indicates his aim to show how, not if, that question is answered. Though there is much debate on how the “how” is answered, Goldsworthy is a wise and seasoned guide on this question. Beginner-Intermediate.

Biblical Theology

1. Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God. Downers Grove: IVP, 2006. Wright’s thesis is that “mission” is a hermenutical key that opens up the riches of the biblical text, and his book is written toward that end. Also helpful Wright’s recent text, The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (Biblical Theology for Life). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. This little text is a model for how to do biblical theology applied to the Christian life. In this book Wright traces the mission of God’s people throughout the biblical canon. It also includes discussion questions in each chapter, making it a good book for a discipleship group or Bible study. Basic-Intermediate.

2. Charles H.H. Scobie, The Ways of Our God: An Approach to Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. Scobie’s book was one of the first full-fledged attempts at what could be called “whole-Bible biblical theology.” After an excellent introduction to and history of biblical theology, Scobie discusses the Bible’s theology by way of four themes: God’s order, God’s servant, God’s people, and God’s way. This book is excellent, but it is enormous. The publisher bears no responsibility if the reader drops the book on himself and is crushed to death. Advanced.

3. G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011.  Beale’s book, technically is a New Testament theology, but because of his whole-Bible method, we have placed this book in the Biblical Theology category. Beale elucidates the entire storyline of Scripture, Old Testament and New, in order to ground the New Testament revelation in the Old. Advanced.

4. Scott J. Hafemann and Paul R. House, eds. Central Themes in Biblical Theology: Mapping Unity in Diversity. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 2007. Hafemann and House edited this volume on key, central themes in the Bible: e.g., atonement, covenant, and people of God; each article is written by a trusted and established evangelical scholar. This volume will help you read more specifically on a few of the themes that emerge in the dictionary mentioned above. Advanced.

5. D.A. Carson, ed. New Studies in Biblical Theology Series, 25 vols. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 2001–. This is an excellent series. Major biblical images and themes (e.g., Temple, Shepherding/pastoring) are given book-length treatments. Intermediate-Advanced.

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  1. Andy   •  

    Thanks for this. I’ve read some of these, but I’m going to look into the ones I’ve yet to come across. By the way, I know it’s not out yet, but Genty and Wellum’s forthcoming book “Kingdom Through Covenant” should probably be added to the list.

  2. Bruce Ashford   •     Author

    John thanks. Ladd’s “A Theology of the New Testament” is a 20th century classic, and is especially helpful in its contribution to the major biblical theme of “kingdom.” Intermediate-Advanced.

  3. ryan case   •  

    also, i would add waltke’s OTT. couldn’t agree more w/ all the books you listed (though i would add ladd too). the best primer i know of, that is at least digestible, is vaughn roberts’ “God’s big picture.” i honestly think it beats goldsworthy or carson’s primers to BT.

  4. Bruce Ashford   •     Author

    Ryan, I agree that Robert’ book is excellent. I would still rank Bartholomew/Goheen first, and then Michael Williams’ “As Far as the Curse is Found” and Roberts next.

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