How to Study the Bible: Authors

biblepage-781x1024Where to begin? Let’s see …

Most Christians don’t buy commentary series, theological encyclopedias, Greek lexicons, or the like. Most people buy individual books on topics that interest them. And most people buy more based on author than topic (which is generally wise).

My own Bible study has been immensely aided by learning who among the great scholars of this age to read. And I wasted a lot of time and money reading bad books before I learned better.

So let’s suppose my 25-year old son or daughter came to me wanting a list of authors or books to read to supplement his or her Bible knowledge. What would I recommend? Well, I’d recommend the books that influenced me the most — taking into account the fact that young people don’t have to face some of the issues that I had to face. My kids don’t need to be cured of legalism.

So for the reader who doesn’t have legalist issues to wrestle through —

* Tom (N.T.) Wright is, of course, the theological and publishing giant who dominates this field. He seems to publish about one book per hour. Some are very long and consist of dense but important theology. Others are written more for the ordinary reader. All are recommended, but here are the most important ones —

The New Testament for Everyone. This is actually a commentary series on the entire NT. At $151.74 for the entire collection, it’s a bargain, eminently readable, and great for someone wanting a commentary starter set. Or you can buy the books individually. There is no Kindle version, but the major Bible software publishers (such as Logos and Accordance) have the electronic version.

It will not be suitable for someone wanting a true theological commentary that delves into every nuance of the text. Rather, this series serves much the same purpose as Barclay’s Daily Study Bible series, except it’s more conservative, more scholarly, and more up to date.

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. Hugely influential, very readable. Explains Christianity in terms that will be unfamiliar to some long-time believers — and yet Wright’s explanation will be instantly comfortable and comforting. Great book.

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. Perhaps the book that has changed more minds than any other.

* Scot McKnight. McKnight posts at the Jesus Creed blog and publishes a book or so a year. He grew up in a conservative, legalistic denomination, but as an adult displays no anger or resentment. Rather, he just tries to teach the Bible as he now understands it.

The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible. An excellent, basic book on understanding and interpreting the scriptures. Warning: it uses the role of women as an example of how to read ancient texts today (he’s right but not all my readers agree).

Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church. Extremely important book on the mission of the church — and the Christians in the church.

* Michael Gorman is a scholar mining much of the same material as Wright, except he approaches things from a different, vitally important angle.

Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology. Incredibly important work. REQUIRED READING. This will be on the final!! And, yes, I know he uses long words and even a little Greek. Read the book anyway.

* John Walton. Walton has radically reshaped our understanding of Genesis 1. You cannot have an intelligent conversation about the Creation without having read Walton — agree or disagree.

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.

Covenant. Asks what question holds the entirety of the Bible together? This is actually not for beginners. But it’s important.

PS — The answer is God’s self-revelation. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal at first glance, but it is. It changes everything to realize that the story of David isn’t about the hero David. It’s about what God did for David and did for us through David. God is the hero. And that’ll change your Sunday school class teaching more than you can imagine.

* Frederick Dale Brunner.

A Theology of the Holy Spirit. It’s 40 years old, but still the best text on the Spirit. Despite being written from a Calvinist perspective. Despite being very scholarly. This is the book to read on the Holy Spirit if you read just one.

* Stanley Hauerwas.

Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony. Let me say this plainly: Buy this book. Read it. Insist that your small group or Bible class study it chapter by chapter.

Hauerwas has a way of expressing himself that is (what’s the word?) abstruse. In this case, his co-author William H. Willimon got Hauerwas to write in easily understood, unmistakable terms. Brilliant. Life changing. One of the most important works of theology written in the last half-century — and an easy, delightful read.

* John Mark Hicks. Hicks is a professor at Lipscomb and a blogger. His two books on baptism and the Lord’s Supper are indispensable —

Come to the Table: Revisioning the Lord’s Supper.

Down in the River to Pray (Revised Edition) (with Greg Taylor).

Both are written at a popular level and yet both are theologically rich.

Now, these are the highest of the highlights. There are other books by the same authors that are great reads. There are great books by other authors. I can only barely begin to list them all.

Readers, what would you add?

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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15 Responses to How to Study the Bible: Authors

  1. Tiffany says:

    Excellent recommendations, Jay! ‘Surprised by Hope’ and ‘The Blue Parakeet’ are in the ‘grab these things if the house is burning down’ category. Or, at least they would have been before the electronic age… 🙂 Walton’s cosmology rescued my faith from a struggling place. It single handedly changed my entire view of Scripture and made it credible again. I’ll never forget, after reading Walton, reading through the OT and and hit 2 Chron 9:18 and said, “Ohhhhhh….!” My entire hermeneutic shifted! haha! Along that line, I really appreciate scholarly anthologies-the ‘best of in the field of….’ works. I studied Philosophy of Religion under Michael Peterson and appreciate his Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings. And all of the InterVarsity Dictionaries, of course. They’re invaluable-I use them daily! Recently, I’ve turned to Malina’s ‘The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology’ and Witherington’s ‘New Testament History: A Narrative Account’ (but honestly, Witherington’s “A Week in the Life of Corinth” is a little gem!) Then there’s ‘The Moral Vision of the New Testament’ by Hays. Gorman and Brunner are on my ‘next up’ list. Thanks for this post! It’s helpful to many!

  2. Tiffany says:

    Excellent list, Jay! Surprised by Hope and The Blue Parakeet are in the ‘save these if the house burns down’ category! (Moreso before the electronic age…) 🙂 Gorman and Brunner are on my ‘next up’ list. Walton’s cosmology work saved my faith from a struggling place. Other OT scholars paved the way for him, but the importance of this work can’t be stressed enough. I’ll never forget having read Walton, then reading through the OT and getting to 2 Chron 9:18. I had a strong “Ohhhhh….” moment! My hermeneutic shifted forever, and the Bible became a beautiful, beautiful gift again. Studies in Philosophy of Religion helped that too. I studied under Michael Peterson, and I appreciate his anthology, “Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings.” Speaking of anthologies, there’s no greater resource to me right now than the InterVarsity’s Dictionaries; I use them daily! Lately, I’ve been turning to Witherington’s New Testament History: A Narrative Account (but really, his little “A Week in the Life of Corinth” is a gem!). Also, Malina’s New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology and Hays’ Moral Vision of the NT are favorites of mine too. Thanks for this list! It’s helpful to many!

  3. Tiffany says:

    Sorry I posted twice, Jay! It said my comment was not submitted. But it lied. 🙂

  4. I know they’re a bit of a one-hit wonder, but Gordon Stuart and Douglas Fee wrote the wonderful “How To Read The Bible For All It’s Worth.” I’d make that one required reading.

    What about C.S. Lewis? Older books, I know, but he has a lot to teach about thinking deeply about spiritual issues.

  5. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Couldn’t agree more And I forgot Francis Schaeffer, too.

  6. David W says:

    Excellent work on the relationship between God and time (though I disagree with some of his conclusions): William Lane Craig. “Time and Eternity”
    The Problem of Evil: The work of Eleanor Stump, “Wandering in Darkness”, Marilyn McCord Adams, “The Problem of Evil” or “Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God”, Alvin Plantinga, “God, Freedom and Evil”, Fr. Brian Davies “The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil”
    God and Science (in general) J.P. Moreland, “Scaling the Secular City”, Alister McGrath “Surprised by Meaning: Science, Faith, and How We Make Sense of Things”
    God and Philosophy in General: Many works by Alvin Pantinga
    Pretty much any area of apologetics: Norman Geisler. (Who writes books even more frequently than N.T. Wright!)
    The Text of the Bible: F.F. Bruce, “The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?” and “The Canon of Scripture”, Bruce Metzger, “The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration”, more recently (and not without controversy) Michael Licona, “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach”.
    Miracles: Craig Keener. “Miracles” (1200+ pages)
    As mentioned Ben Witherington.
    Gordon Fee has also written excellent commentaries on 1 Corinthians and Romans.

  7. Tiffany says:

    Plantigna! David, you sound like a Biologos fan! I love them. You have enough philosophical meat in that list to last quite awhile.

  8. John Randy Royse says:

    No Thomas Merton? The guy that changed it all for me (trying to escape what I call the Brown Trail syndrome) was Alan Watts. I’m on my 7th or 8th redo of “Behold the Spirit”…..

  9. You mean no one has suggested Behold the Pattern yet?

  10. David says:

    Any commentary by F F Bruce.

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    I have to say that I’m an FF Bruce fan. Post on commentaries to come …

    Not familiar with Thomas Merton myself, but he sounds intriguing. Plantinga doesn’t really get it for me, but maybe that’s because he starts with Calvinist assumptions. But I’ve not read him in a quite a while. (And, no, I’m not up for yet another round on Arminianism v. Calvinism.)

    I do enjoy the works of Witherington and Fee.

  12. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Search iTunes for “Reading Genesis With Ancient Eyes” for a 2012 lecture by John Walton at Harding U. See also “Asking the Right Questions of Job.” Interesting.

  13. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    I’ve seen Walton’s lecture, and he is a remarkably gifted teacher as well as thinker. I’ll have to take a look at his lecture on Job.

  14. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Hard to find the best place to post this…

    For anyone who is interested, Scot McKnight and John Walton will be speaking next week at a BioLogos Conference titled, “Evolution & Christian Faith”
    -Tues, June 30, 9:15am – Plenary Lecture – Scot McKnight – “Adam and the Scientists”
    -Tues, June 30, 7:30pm – Plenary Lecture – John Walton – “Investigating What the Bible Claims Concerning Adam and Eve”

    There is a small fee to receive the streaming lectures (I would prefer to save the files and listen to them at my leisure):

    Schedule with abstracts:

  15. Dwight says:

    Might I suggest the scripture, both old and new. They are often thier own best commentary and resource forming a fluid thought. And what is more…guided by the Holy Spirit, either in collection or in the writings of. And an excellent source of information is contained within that answers many questions and provides the pathway to God. Suitable for all readers. Constant best seller. Easy to read and thought provoking. And easy to apply if we are willing to bend.

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