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.

Top 40 Resources (Or So) For an Exegetically-Minded Preacher to Buy (Pt. 1): Hebrew and Greek Tools

By: Bruce Riley Ashford & Grant Taylor

A while back, BtT posted a brief list of “Top 25 Books (Or So) For a Young Theologian to Buy (And Read).” At the request of some of our readers, we are following up on that post by providing a list of helpful resources for exegetically- and theologically-minded preachers. We will post the list over four days, but before we give the first installment of the list, here are a few prefatory comments.

First, we focus this list on exegetical tools (Hebrew and Greek), dictionaries (OT, NT, and whole Bible), commentary series (OT and NT), and big-picture tools (OT, NT, and whole Bible). We’ve left out numerous fine books that fall in other categories (hermeneutics, preaching, etc.).

Second, we include books that are written at different levels of accessibility, and we try to note this by flagging certain books as basic, intermediate, or advanced.

Third, we encourage the young preacher to begin building a library that eventually will provide most of the tools he needs to teach from any text of Scripture. This type of library is one way in which the preacher can be ready to preach “in season and out.”

Fourth, we encourage the young preacher to take this sort of books seriously, and allow them to drive him back into the biblical text, reading it slowly, patiently, and receptively. The best books are those that drive us back into the Scriptures and enable us to read the Scriptures more fruitfully. The worst books are those that seek to replace Scripture, or that somehow encourage us to bypass hard work in the text.

Fifth, we’d like to hear your thoughts about what you would have included that we left out, and maybe what we included that you would have left out. We started out aiming to provide 25 recommendations, but ended up exceeding our own limit.

Below is the first installment of the list—Hebrew and Greek exegetical tools.

Exegetical Tools (Hebrew)

1. Allen P. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

Ross’s Hebrew grammar is one of the best tools to begin learning the language. He clearly explains the major and several minor features of biblical Hebrew, and includes his own parsing system for Hebrew verbs. Beginner-Intermediate.

2. Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1990. A very helpful reference work for studying Hebrew syntax, which is essential because phrases and sentences (rather than words) give the basic level of meaning. Waltke and O’Connor supplement (not replace) older grammars such as GKC (Gesenius) with clear explanations that helps students move from interpreting easier genres such as narrative to more difficult ones such as prophecy or the Psalms. Intermediate.

3. Willem A. VanGemeran, ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997. (NIDOTTE) Word studies alone do not a complete exegesis make, but without them no exegesis is complete. VanGemeren (with contributions by numerous OT experts) provides a very reliable, precise resource helpful for preaching and teaching. If you know the Hebrew root, you can see the word’s usage in its ANE and OT settings and the theological implications for hundreds of key Hebrew words. Intermediate-Advanced.

4. Douglas K. Stuart, Old Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors. Fourth Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009. In this book Stuart helps preachers and teachers put the essential parts of exegesis together into a whole. How do those word studies relate to syntax and the genre of the book you are studying? Stuart’s work will help you find the way. Intermediate.

5. F. Brown, S.R. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1996. (BDB) The standard (reprinted several times) lexicon for study of OT Hebrew and Aramaic words. While the print is frustrating at times, this remains a basic resource for Hebrew and OT study. Basic-Intermediate.

Exegetical Tools (Greek)

1. David Alan Black, Learn to Read New Testament Greek, exp. ed. (Nashville: B&H, 1994). Black’s introductory text teaches Greek in a manner that is as non-technical as possible. He also provides learning exercises that draw the beginning student into the process of learning Greek. Beginner.

2. F.W. Danker, ed. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Revised. Third Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. (BDAG) Like BDB for Greek, but better. The third edition includes the history of classical Greek usage, semantic domains (ranges of meaning) with definitions in the NT, and early Christian usage for the same words. In sum, a must-have for serious study of the NT. Advanced.

3. Gordon D. Fee, New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors. Third Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. The New Testament counterpart to Stuart above, Fee helps students learn how to connect word studies with sentence diagramming and sentence diagramming with teaching or preaching. A very helpful “how-to” guide to reading the Greek NT well. Intermediate.

4. Dan Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996. This is the follow-up to William H. Mounce’s The Basics of Biblical Greek (the one to get if you are just beginning). Wallace’s Beyond the Basics goes well beyond them by providing major categories of interpretation for all the major components of NT Greek. Advanced.

5. Maximilian Zerwick, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. Subsidia Biblica. 5th Edition. Translated by M. Grovesnor. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 2010; and Maximilian Zerwick, Biblical Greek: Illustrated by Examples. Adapted from Fourth Latin Edition. Rome: Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici, 1963. A couple of oldies but goodies. Zerwick’s Grammatical Analysis provides a parsing and lexical analysis to every book of the NT. It is also keyed to his grammar, Biblical Greek, which wonderfully illustrates the major components of NT Greek, like Wallace but with fewer sub-categories and far fewer pages. Intermediate-Advanced.

6. Andreas J. Köstenberger and Raymond Bouchoc, The Book Study Concordance of the Greek New Testament. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2003. Organized by biblical book rather than by Greek word, this is an invaluable tool for exegetical and expositional preaching and teaching as it allows one to see the emphases and distinctions of biblical authors through the quantity and contextual use of their vocabulary. Intermediate.