Friday, August 05, 2005

Top 10 books on Paul

On the topic of favourite books, here's my Pauline list.

1. James Dunn, Theology of Paul the Apostle

Jimmy Dunn's magnum opus is unsurpassed in its rigorous analysis of Paul. Some sections are better than others. I'm still not sold completely on the NPP take on justification ? sympathetic, but unconvinced. This is my first stop for Pauline studies.

2. Ralph Martin & Daniel Reid, Dictionary of Paul and his Letters

If you're studying in seminary or Bible college, this is the first place to look up topics relating to Paul. It is handy to get a good summary of any given topic and a cool bibliography at the end of every entry as well. Great place for starting essays and exam preparation.

3. Michael Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological
Introduction to Paul and His Letters

This book impresses me the more I read it. Gorman presents a rich blend rhetorical, theological and devotional approaches to Paul. He gives a good account of the counter-imperial implications of Paul's gospel too. He defines justification as the establishment of a right covenantal relationship with God with hope for acquittal at the final judgment.

4. N.T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said (until COQG 4 !!!)

This book certainly set the cat among the pigeons. But it is a good little book about Paul. Two things I don't like: (1) In this book (as opposed to his more recent works) he essentially reduces justification to ecclesiology; (2) I think he focuses too much on Rom. 1.3-4 as being summative of the Pauline gospel where the gospel is essetentially the christological announcement that Jesus is Messiah and Lord. I think 1 Cor. 15.1-8 implies that soteriology (death and resurrection) is also part of the gospel, not merely the announcement that Jesus is the Messiah.

5. F.F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free

An oldie but a classic. Bruce is a good example of a seasoned historian wrestling with Paul, though his views are pre-Sanders, pre-rhetoric etc.

6. Thomas Schreiner, Paul: Apostle of God's Glory in Christ

A good conservative text book on Paul. What I found interesting is Schreiner's discussion of the pistis christou debate and also how he changed from a transformative to a forensic understanding of justification.

7. J. Christiaan Beker, Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in the Life and Thought

Beker's apocalyptic approach is on the money, his theocentric understanding of Paul makes sense, and I also appreciate his model of coherence and contingency for doing Pauline theology.

8. M.D. Hooker, From Adam to Christ

Classic essays by a careful and learned scholar. Hooker is always worth reading.

9. D.A. Carson et. al., Justification and Variegated Nomism (2 vols.)

This volumes represent a good challenge to the NPP, perhaps the best and most systematic so far. I know of the criticism vocalized against the term 'variegated nomism' (see Dunn's recent review in TrinJ and others in RBL) but I think it is a term elastic enough to describe the various approaches to law, election and eschatological vindication in second-temple Judaism. I would probably see a greater covenantal implication of justification than many of the contributors to volume 2.

10. Ben Witherington, Paul's Narrative Thought World

A good useful book that looks at Paul from a narrative approach.

8 comments:

J. B. Hood said...

Now, why couldn't we get the same comments on the Jesus books? You know what I think? I think you're really a PAUL scholar posing as an Historical Jesus guy.

Loren Rosson III said...

Michael, this is a nice list. But if you haven't read Philip Esler's Galatians and Conflict and Identity in Romans, please do so before you are a month older.

fr'nklin said...

I agree w/ Dunn at the top of the list but I'm disappointed SANDERS didn't make the list!!!! Without E.P. do you even have Dunn or Wright or the myriads of books written to refute or defend him?
Peace.

Peter McKeague said...

I'm glad you included Witherington, and your comments inspire me to read Gorman. I also pleased to see Bruce's classic on the list. But there is another classic that at least deserves an honourable mention, even though it too was written prior to many of the recent developments in Pauline scholarship - Herman Ridderbos' "Paul, An Outline of His Theology". It's a solid study and influential in Evangelical and especially Reformed circles.

Michael F. Bird said...

In reponse to comments so far,

Jase - Yes, I am a probably a clauset Paulinist at heart. I fear that some Reformed Christians are really Paulinists who try to make every other book of the NT cohere with their interpretation of Paul.

Loren - Esler ain't bad, I need to read his NT theology, but I don't like it when scholars make their conclusions depend too much on certain method-of-the-month like sociology (which changes all the time); marry the methodology of the age and soon you'll be a widow. But then again, he is an Australian.

Franklin, Sanders I think opened our eyes up to Judaism and steered us away from caricatures of it as inherently legalistic, but I still don't like his exegesis of Paul that much. I think his main premise of what Paul found wrong with Judaism is completely off the mark.

Peter - I must lament that I haven't read Ridderbos in full; but of what I have read, I found , well, awkward and wordy. I also think Ridderbos is succeeded by Schreiner as the Reformed/Evangelical Paul-book of choice.

Loren Rosson III said...

Esler ain't bad, I need to read his NT theology, but I don't like it when scholars make their conclusions depend too much on certain method-of-the-month like sociology (which changes all the time)

Regardless of what you end up thinking of Esler, he certainly does not use "method-of-the-month" techniques or faddish paradigms. The honor-shame model is useful and necessary, and not intended to replace theology.

Michael F. Bird said...

I like the honour/shame model and purity/impurity stuff too (ala Malina esp.). I think sociology also has its place in NT research. The problem is that it's often over stated and over used. There is the danger that one reduces all theology to sociology - not that Esler necessarily does that, but a good thing can be pushed too far as it so often is.

J. B. Hood said...

It was a running joke that Ridderbos had been translated into English...part of the way. (vocabulary, but not syntax?!)