John GM Barclay, Paul and the Gift
John Barclay’s complete analysis of the meaning grace/gift in the ancient worlds of Judaism, Greece and Rome as the context that makes most sense of Paul’s theology of grace, one that emphasizes the incongruity of the Giver (God) and the one gifted (humans), an incongruity that focuses just as much on the social status as one’s religious worth, is the Jesus Creed Book of the Year. I have an extensive review of Paul and the Gift appearing in the Jan-Feb edition of Books & Culture, a review flanked by Wesley Hill’s review of the same book. The most innovative study of grace ever, as well as a major contribution to Pauline studies — and thus also to systematic theology.
Admission and confession: I don’t read everything; I don’t even try to read in all fields of my own discipline; I read what strikes me as interesting and as valuable for the readers of this blog. I’m a NT prof, which means I lean NT. We would be glad to hear your recommendations in the Comment Box below.
James D.G. Dunn, Neither Jew Nor Greek: A Contested Identity.
This, the third volume of Dunn’s life project — Christianity in the Making — takes us from the far edges of the New Testament into the 2d Century to explore what became of the Jesus traditions, the Pauline tradition, the Petrine tradition and the Johannine tradition. Instead of locking down on the Great Church and how everything flowed to that Great Church, Dunn examines the 2d Century from the angle of what it did to the 1st Century.
My favorite autobiography of the year, from an age-less but age-d theologian whose story is from evangelicalism into the liberalism of the mainline and then back into the evangelical world that focuses on the great tradition of Christian orthodoxy that all Christians hold in common.
NT Wright, Paul and His Recent Interpreters
Wright’s work on Paul is now evidently come to is completion, though no doubt Tom will continue to write some in Paul. But after a collection of essays on Paul and then the two-volume Paul and the Faithfulness of God, volume 4 in his The New Testament and the People of God, Wright has now set out how he reads the history of Pauline interpreters, focusing especially on the new perspective, the old perspective’s response, the apocalyptic Paul as well as the social description of the earliest churches.
And for pastors and leaders, I have to mention the very fine book by Derwin Gray, The High-Definition Leader.
Lucy’s book on women in Corinth, as she continues to unfold her argument that 1 Corinthians 11 is full of quotations and Pauline counters and questions, will prove to be a watershed book in discerning the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11.
Derwin Gray has an agenda — to demonstrate the gospel can transcend boundaries and that God wants — even today — to create multi-ethnic churches. Written in an accessible format, Derwin’s book is a blueprint for the Western church’s future.
Alistair Stewart, The Original Bishops
I’m not hearing much about this volume, but I consider one of the most erudite volumes I have read in recent memory. An extensive analysis of the meanings of “bishop” and “elders” in the earliest churches, a volume that contends that there was only one elder per church and that the term “bishop” had a strong connotation of being the financial and economic adminstrator-pastor who cared for the poor in the community.
Augustine Thompson, Francis of Assisi
While in Italy I read this book — a beautiful, scholarly and very readable life of Francis and one that puts most myths of the man to the test — and finds them wanting.
OK, a novel for the year: I read all three of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead novels this year and I have to recommend, well, two as wonderful reads: Home and Lila. (Gilead has already received its own rewards.)
Gary N. Fugle, Laying Down Arms to Heal the Creation-Evolution Divide
A biology professor who has written a very accessible discussion of the issues at the core of the apparent conflict between evolution and Christian faith.
This book takes a close look at the cosmology in the Old Testament and the way it has been read and interpreted through the centuries.
R. W. L. Moberly, Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture
One of the most thought provoking books I (RJS) have read in a while.