Hurtado on Books Worth Reading

Books Old(er) and Still Worth Knowing

by larryhurtado on August 9, 2011

I’m moving office in New College, and this means packing up my books.  As it will be a smaller office, this also means down-sizing my book-collection.  In the process of having to make such decisions, one comes across books read long ago but still very much worth noting (and some acquired but never read!).  Here are just a few gems that today’s students in NT/Christian Origins should know (and know first-hand).

Among these are works largely forgotten in recent generations of NT scholars, such as Adolf Deissmann’s Light from the East  (ET, 1927), which contains numerous data and pointers on the world of the NT to further exploration that still repay attention.   A. M. Hunter, Paul and His Predecessors (1961), is a slender but valuable study of Paul’s indebtedness and connections to Jewish Christian co-religionists.  A. D. Nock, Early Gentile Christianity and Its Hellenistic Background (1964) is an enduring analysis of the relationship of early Christianity to its religious environment.

Of more recent vintage are works such as Wayne Meeks, The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul(1983), a classic study of key social characteristics of Pauline congregations.  David E. Aune, The New Testament in Its Literary Environment (1987) is the best one-volume study I know on the relationship of the NT writings to their literary setting.  Harry Y. Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts (1995) should be required reading for all PhD students in NT/Christian Origins, a fascinating study of the role of texts in early Christianity (the writing, copying, circulation, and reading of them), showing that in its historical setting early Christianity was an unusually text-oriented religious movement.

  • Joel Morgan

    If you are downsizing, perhaps you could send a few my way. Engineers need theological books too.


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