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.
- 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.
- Eric Huntsman, Becoming the Beloved Disciple: Coming unto Christ through the Gospel of John. Huntsman is a BYU New Testament professor who is slated to write the BYU NT Commentary on John. More to say about this later, but see an initial review here.
- 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.
- John Welch, Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount.
- Welch compares Christ’s sermon in 3Nephi with the very similar sermon in Matthew. Free from the Maxwell Institute.
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.
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.
- Between the Testaments: From Malachi to Matthew
- This LDS volume focuses on the 400+ year time-period and changes between the end of the Old Testament and beginning of the New. This period of time is the transitionary period where all those things present in the NT but missing in the OT really solidify: Jewish groups (scribes, pharisees, saducees), common understandings and expressions (such as God as Father, and Holy Spirit), language and cultural changes (the Greeks invade c. 323 BC, Jews move all over the empire, Greek and Latin start playing a role, etc.)
- Hershel Shanks (ed.), Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple (Revised & Expanded)
- You can buy this at Amazon for an oddly inflated price, but it’s cheapest from the publisher. Shanks was the Jewish editor of such magazines as Biblical Archaeology Review, Bible Review (now defunct and merged with BAR), and some similar publications. BAR is worth reading, and I often post articles from it.
- Michael Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World
- Both of the above are good histories of the Biblical world from Old Testament through the “intertestamental period” until post-temple-destruction in 70 AD.
- And if you want to see how Christianity developed in the NT and beyond I highly recommend MacCulloch’s Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years.
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.
- See When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible which gets directly into the issue. (Review here.)
- For a handle on the Septuagint, though slightly technical, I suggest Invitation to the Septuagint by Jobes and Silva.
- The LXX can be read in a new, free translation, the New English Translation of the Septuagint or NETS. You can buy a copy or read it free here.
- Analysis and discussion of how the NT quotes and uses the OT is available in verse-by-verse order in the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.
- This issue is somewhat problematic, and can causes problems for people who expect the NT authors to be interpreting the Old Testament in context. I’ll be addressing those assumptions somewhat in my own book, but in the meantime, Peter Enns gives it lengthy discussion in his excellent Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament cf. Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) and The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?: Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New