New Testament Gospel Doctrine Resources, Part 3: Everything Else

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Resources, Part 3: Everything Else December 29, 2018
My updated bookshelf

(Post 1, post 2)
I’ve decided to gather together my other recommendations into one big incoherent post 🙂

If you’d like to join an online reading group to discuss the NT from a more academic perspective than every-other-week Gospel doctrine class, this LDS Facebook group will be reading through several good books along with the NT: Simply Jesus (NT Wright) and The New Perspective on Paul: An Introduction (Yinger). I’d also call attention to BYU Studies’ Gospel Doctrine class index, the Religious Studies Center Gospel Doctrine index (which I assume will be updated)  and the Mormon Women Project Sunday School Supplements.

General
If you’d like to add to your personal and Church study  an approximation of how the NT  might be studied in a college class, pick up a textbook. I’d suggest either Powell, Introducing the New Testament: A Historical, Literary, and Theological Survey or Ehrman’s 6th edition New Testament: A Historical Introduction to Early Christian Writings. The former is Lutheran, the latter is a well-known scholar who lost his faith, but is skilled at writing and research.
Gospels
  • First, James  Goldberg’s Five Books of Jesus is free right now in Kindle, and of course, you don’t need an actual Kindle, just the app.  Jump on that! Goldberg comes from a Jewish/Hindu background, teaches at BYU, writes for the Church (he’s one of the listed authors for Saints), and just has really interesting things to say. This is kind of an academic, novelized version of the Gospels.  But it’s free, so check it out.
  • Julie Smith’s BYU New Testament Commentary on Mark. Learn more, including a sample, here. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be available to preorder yet, except through BYU Studies. I read this whole volume two summers ago, and look forward to it getting out there.
  • Mark Goodacre is a British New Testament scholar at Duke. I recommend his NT Pod podcast series, and his book The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze (free legal pdf from Goodacre here.) The book address the problem of having four Gospels, and how they are related, since at times they are word for word identical. The general consensus is that Mark wrote first, then Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source. However, they had another source they shared which Mark did not use (called Q, from the German word for “source.”) And then of course, John is off doing his own thing, which is why there are three synoptic Gospels, not four.
 Languages and Words

If you’re going to play with translations and Greek at all, or if you ever say something like “what this word really means…” then you really need to read Carson, Exegetical Fallacies and John Walton’s essay here. This will prevent you from making beginner mistakes with the meaning of original languages. Heck, even if you just work with English, these are helpful. Reading them could save a lot of embarrassment.

Paul

We tend to be very weak in Paul. Even with a modern translation, he can be very hard to understand. Plus, Protestants love Paul, so theological cooties and stuff. While the Gospels appear simpler, we really don’t read Paul in any kind of context or depth, very selectively, and that seriously weakens our missionary work and understanding of the gospel, I think. Perhaps Paul seems really foreign because we only know him through the popular Protestant Paul. So we approach his difficult letters already assuming he’s not really “Mormon.”
And of course, he isn’t…. but neither is he a 21st-century Evangelical or a 16th-century Protestant, or Catholic for that matter. Even *Protestants* don’t really know the Biblical Paul. They know the Lutheran Paul. Matthew Bates, author of Salvation by Allegiance Alone (more in a later post) says that he had to

recognize the degree to which [his] ideas of faith, sin, repentance, works, “heaven,” the kingdom of God, and the like were constructed through sixteenth-century Protestant categories rather than first-century [categories].

Each of those English words carries cultural baggage that doesn’t necessarily reflect how New Testament authors thought about and used them. Getting a translation that uses different words, or reading books/articles that explain what these things meant in the 1st century really help us understand Paul.

  • NT Wright, Paul: In Fresh Perspective
    • Wright is an Anglican priest and NT scholar, who used to be the Bishop of Durham. I really like his stuff, and he’s been well-received in LDS circles. He writes both technically (usually as NT Wright) and more popular books (usually as Tom Wright), such as Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope.  All his books are here.
  • Thomas Wayment From Persecutor to Apostle: a Biography
    • An LDS biography.
  • Richard L. Anderson’s Understanding Paul is highly LDS and perhaps outdated but does a good job at explaining what each of Paul’s letters is about, the issues in each church Paul set up, etc.
  • NT Wright’s commentary on Romans (together with Acts-1Corinthians in the New Interpreter’s Bible Series) is quite good.
    • Wright’s nuclear bomb of Pauline scholarship, about grace, faith, and the New Perspective on Paul is Paul and the Faithfulness of God. 1700 pages. Oof.
  • BYU’s James Faulconer, modeling close slow reading, has some very good work on Romans 1, 5-8. The first part of this is available free from the Maxwell Institute.

 

History

The Bible of the New Testament

For many of the first Christians, “the Bible” meant not the Hebrew texts, but the Greek translation(s) of it, called the Septuagint or LXX. Indeed, many of the NT citations of the OT (heavily obscured in our LDS KJV, another reason to pick up a second translation) match the Greek LXX, not the Hebrew. Sometimes the changes are significant.

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