(Last updated 05/01/15)
Here you can find the best books on the Bible and religion relevant to the content discussed on this site. Each of the following are ones I myself have read (or partly read) and can personally vouch for. Visitors are encouraged to leave their own recommendations in the comments section at the very bottom. Unless otherwise noted, all reviews are from Amazon.
I’ve organized the library into the following categories, which you can jump to by clicking on:
- The Bible
- Non-canonical Texts
- Biblical Controversy
- Judaism and Christianity
- The Historical Jesus
- The World of the New Testament
- Ancient Israel
- Biblical Parallels
Also check out the following academic catalogs on religion:
- Cambridge University Press
- Princeton University Press
- Oxford University Press
- Yale University Press
- Harvard University Press
- University of Chicago Press
- University of California Press
- Cornell University Press
- Indiana University Press
- Baylor University Press
- Columbia University Press
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- University Press of New England
Book Samples (pdf)
- Intro and first chapter of The Bible with Sources Revealed by Richard Elliot Friedman
- First three chapters of Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliot Friedman
- First two chapters of A History Of God by Karen Armstrong
- Part one of Don’t Know Much About the Bible by Kenneth C. Davis
by Michael D. Coogan (Editor), Marc Z. Brettler (Editor), Carol A. Newsom (Editor), Pheme Perkins (Editor) There are thousands of different Bibles out there, but few are as intellectually honest as this one. The premier study Bible used by scholars, pastors, undergraduate and graduate students, The New Oxford Annotated Bible offers a vast range of information, including extensive notes by experts in their fields; in-text maps, charts, and diagrams; supplementary essays on translation, biblical interpretation, cultural and historical background, and other general topics.
by Bruce M. Metzger (Editor), Michael David Coogan (Editor)
The Oxford Companion to the Bible provides an authoritative one-volume reference to the people, places, events, books, institutions, religious belief, and secular influence of the Bible. Written by more than 250 scholars from some 20 nations and embracing a wide variety of perspectives, the Companion offers over seven hundred entries, ranging from brief identifications–who is Dives? where is Pisgah?–to extensive interpretive essays on topics such as the influence of the Bible on music or law.
Ranging far beyond the scope of a traditional Bible dictionary, the Companion features, in addition to its many informative, factual entries, an abundance of interpretive essays. Here are extended entries on religious concepts from immortality, sin, and grace, to baptism, ethics, and the Holy Spirit. The contributors also explore biblical views of modern issues such as homosexuality, marriage, and anti-Semitism, and the impact of the Bible on the secular world (including a four-part article on the Bible’s influence on literature).
The Oxford History of the Biblical World (A must read!)
by Michael D. Coogan (Editor)
In this impressive volume, leading scholars offer compelling glimpses into the biblical world, the world in which prophets, poets, sages, and historians created one of our most important texts–the Bible.
For more than a century, archaeologists have been unearthing the tombs, temples, texts, and artifacts of the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean world. Using new approaches, contemporary scholars have begun to synthesize this material with the biblical traditions. The Oxford History of the Biblical World incorporates the best of this scholarship, and in chronologically ordered chapters presents the reader with a readable and integrated study of the history, art, architecture, languages, literatures, and religion of biblical Israel and early Judaism and Christianity in their larger cultural contexts. The authors also examine such issues as the roles of women, the tensions between urban and rural settings, royal and kinship social structures, and official and popular religions of the region.
by Adele Berlin (Editor), Marc Zvi Brettler (Editor), Michael Fishbane (Editor)
The Jewish Study Bible is a one-volume resource tailored especially for the needs of students of the Hebrew Bible. Nearly forty scholars worldwide contributed to the translation and interpretation of the Jewish Study Bible, representing the best of Jewish biblical scholarship available today. A committee of highly-respected biblical scholars and rabbis from the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism movements produced this modern translation.
No knowledge of Hebrew is required for one to make use of this unique volume. The Jewish Study Bible uses The Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation.
Since its publication, the Jewish Study Bible has become one of the most popular volumes in Oxford’s celebrated line of bibles. The quality of scholarship, easy-to-navigate format, and vibrant supplementary features bring the ancient text to life.
by Richard Elliot Friedman
Why is the Bible so hard to read? The answer lies in the Documentary Hypothesis, conceived over a hundred years ago. This book presents a comprehensive collection of evidence supporting this theory, all in a concentrated format in the first 31 pages. The rest of the book presents the author’s translation of the Torah (1st 5 books of the Bible), coded to alleged authorship, with extensive footnotes & explanations. Different colors and type styles allow readers to easily identify each of the distinct sources, showcasing Friedman’s highly acclaimed and dynamic translation.
by Richard Elliot Friendman
by Richard Elliot Friedman While other commentaries are generally collections of comments by a number of scholars, this is a unified commentary on the Torah by a single scholar, the most unified by a Jewish scholar in centuries. It includes the original Hebrew text, a new translation, and an authoritative, accessibly written interpretation and analysis of each passage that remains focused on the meaning of the Torah as a whole, showing how its separate books are united into one cohesive, all-encompassing sacred literary masterpiece. This landmark work is destined to take its place as a classic in the libraries of lay readers and scholars alike, as we seek to understand the significance of the scriptural texts for our lives today, and for years to come.
Who Wrote the Bible? (A must read!)
by Richard Elliot Friedman
by Richard Elliot Friedman Friedman carefully sifts through clues available in the text of the Hebrew Bible and those provided by biblical archaeology searching for the writer(s) of, primarily, the Pentateuch. He does so with clarity and engaging style, turning a potentially dry scholarly inquiry into a lively detective story. The reader is guided through the historical circumstances that occasioned the writing of the sources underlying the Five Books of Moses and the combining of these diverse sources into the final literary product.
by James L. Kugel
In How to Read the Bible, Harvard professor James Kugel leads the reader chapter by chapter through the “quiet revolution” of recent biblical scholarship, showing time and again how radically the interpretations of today’s researchers differ from what people have always thought. Kugel’s work is, quite simply, the best, most original book about the Bible in decades. It offers an unflinching, insider’s look at the work of today’s scholars, together with a sustained consideration of what the Bible was for most of its history — before the rise of modern scholarship. Readable, clear, often funny but deeply serious in its purpose, this is a book for Christians and Jews, believers and secularists alike. It offers nothing less than a whole new way of thinking about sacred Scripture.
by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Z. Brettler
Although major New Testament figures–Jesus and Paul, Peter and James, Jesus’ mother Mary and Mary Magdalene–were Jews, living in a culture steeped in Jewish history, beliefs, and practices, there has never been an edition of the New Testament that addresses its Jewish background and the culture from which it grew–until now. In The Jewish Annotated New Testament, eminent experts under the general editorship of Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Z. Brettler put these writings back into the context of their original authors and audiences. And they explain how these writings have affected the relations of Jews and Christians over the past two thousand years.
For non-Jewish readers interested in the Jewish roots of Christianity and for Jewish readers who want a New Testament that neither proselytizes for Christianity nor denigrates Judaism, The Jewish Annotated New Testament is an essential volume that places these writings in a context that will enlighten students, professionals, and general readers.
A clear and exceptional introduction that will guide any student or reader easily through the complexities of the New Testament. This accessible and widely-used volume presents the materials in historical order, with emphasis on the different types of documents, ideas, and presentations. Complete with map, charts, and tables, along with suggested exercises and additional reading.
by Jr. Burton H. Throckmorton
Gospel Parallels is a serious work indexing and comparing the first three New Testament books (Matthew, Mark and Luke) so that those interested in the study of the Gospels can see exactly the similarities and discrepancies in the stories.
But the book is more than that. Given the increasing interest in recent years in the non-canonical works, Greek and other manuscripts that are not easily found in the local library are cited as a way of further illuminating the path toward further understanding of early Christian writing and thinking.
One benefit of this style is that we’re able to quickly see the differences in accounts. Those wanting an explication of the significance in choice of language or details included or excluded will have to look elsewhere for enlightenment. That makes this very thorough book a study aid accompanying other works that might provide more understanding; it is not a freestanding help to those curious about why accounts of Jesus’ life or teaching vary so radically.
by Dale B. Martin
In this engaging introduction to the New Testament, Professor Dale B. Martin presents a historical study of the origins of Christianity by analyzing the literature of the earliest Christian movements. Focusing mainly on the New Testament, he also considers nonbiblical Christian writings of the era.
Martin begins by making a powerful case for the study of the New Testament. He next sets the Greco-Roman world in historical context and explains the place of Judaism within it. In the discussion of each New Testament book that follows, the author addresses theological themes, then emphasizes the significance of the writings as ancient literature and as sources for historical study. Throughout the volume, Martin introduces various early Christian groups and highlights the surprising variations among their versions of Christianity.
by Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland
The Text of the New Testament is the most detailed work on New Testament textual criticism available in the English language. In it, the Alands trace the history of the Greek texts from ancient times all the way through to an informative comparison of the modern critical editions. It is written at a level that can be easily understood by students with no previous knowledge in either textual criticism or Greek. However, its value to scholars cannot be over-estimated. The book includes detailed descriptions of every New Testament papyri and uncial manuscript, and details the most important miniscules as well. Its abundant tables and charts enable the reader to locate early manuscripts by date, content, length, and text “family.”
by Jean-Pierre Isbouts
Casting the tumultuous history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam against the rich canvas of the Near East, The Biblical World reveals how three great religions emerged from the same cradle. Author Jean-Pierre Isbouts employs a non-denominational perspective and a wide range of sources—from ancient hieroglyphic texts to the latest scientific findings—to place Bible stories in the framework of history. Chronologically arranged chapters detail battles, conquests, tribal migrations, natural calamities, and more, supporting the stories with intriguing archaeological evidence. To locate sites and events, National Geographic cartographers have created fifty all-new maps of stunning quality. Hundreds of photographs and artifacts add visual excitement. Quick-read timelines link events across cultures while illustrated sidebars focus on what life was like during each era: family roles, farming, trade, dress, childbirth, burial customs, and other aspects of daily existence.
by P. R. Ackroyd (Editor), C. F. Evans (Editor)
Volume 1 concerns the earliest period down to Jerome and takes as its central theme the process by which the books of both Testaments came into being and emerged as a canon of scripture, and the use of canonical writings in the early church.
Volume 2 commences the study of the Bible in the West. It begins with Jerome and the Fathers and goes on to the time of Erasmus.
Volume 3 covers the effects of the Bible on the history of the West between the Reformation and the publication of the New English Bible.
by Michael L Statlow
In this sweeping narrative, Michael Satlow tells the fascinating story of how an ancient collection of obscure Israelite writings became the founding texts of both Judaism and Christianity, considered holy by followers of each faith. Drawing on cutting-edge historical and archeological research, he traces the story of how, when, and why Jews and Christians gradually granted authority to texts that had long lay dormant in a dusty temple archive. The Bible, Satlow maintains, was not the consecrated book it is now until quite late in its history.
He describes how elite scribes in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E. began the process that led to the creation of several of our biblical texts. It was not until these were translated into Greek in Egypt in the second century B.C.E., however, that some Jews began to see them as culturally authoritative, comparable to Homer’s works in contemporary Greek society. Then, in the first century B.C.E. in Israel, political machinations resulted in the Sadducees assigning legal power to the writings. We see how the world Jesus was born into was largely biblically illiterate and how he knew very little about the texts upon which his apostles would base his spiritual leadership.
by Timothy Beal
In this revelatory exploration, a noted religion scholar and former evangelical Christian takes us back to early Christianity to ask how a box of handwritten scrolls became the Bible, and forward to see how the multibillion-dollar business that has brought us Biblezines and manga Bibles is selling down the Bible’s sacred capital. Among his surprising insights: *Christianity thrived for centuries without any Bible. Early congregations used collections of scrolls; there was no official canon of scriptures and no book existed that was big enough to hold them. *The idea of the Bible as the literal Word of God is only about a century old. *There is no “original” Bible behind the thousands of Bibles on the market today. The further back we go in the Bible’s history, the more versions we find.
Understanding The Bible (textbook)
by Stephen L. Harris
This best-selling nonsectarian guide is designed for students undertaking their first systematic study of the Bible. Placing each book of the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and the New Testament fully in its historical and cultural context, Understanding the Bible acquaints readers with the content as well as the major themes of each biblical book, and familiarizes them with the goals and methods of important scholarship.
by Bart Erhman
Ehrman has put together the perfect historical introduction to the Bible for the serious beginner who graves more than what is offered at the typical church study group. You don’t need a college degree to understand Ehrman’s presentation. It is clear, concise and unbiased, written by a renown Bible historian. You will come away from this eye opening read with a refreshing appreciation and new understanding of the Bible that you did not have before.
For the more advanced Bible buff, I recommend reading this in tandem with “Understanding The Bible” by Stephen Harris [above].
Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (textbook)
by John J. Collins
In this balanced and thorough introduction to the Hebrew Bible, John J. Collins takes his students on a historical-critical journey through biblical texts. With an accessible yet authoritative tone, he identifies the complex ethical issues raised by the text and challenges his students to understand the responsibilities of interpretation. Drawing on his many years of expert teaching, Collins produces a clear and concise tool for undergraduate, graduate, and seminary settings with maps, images, and suggestions for further reading to guide students along the way.
by James Strong
The Best Bible Study Tool Available
Only one concordance includes the best of Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. The Hebrew and Greek dictionaries now have three times more word study information than any other edition. Plus additional cross-references from leading dictionaries make this the ultimate reference tool for pastors, teachers, and all students of the Bible.
- The only Strong’s that includes Vine’s Complete Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
- Words of Christ in red
- Complete topical index of the Bible
- Hebrew and Greek dictionaries now have three times more word study information than any other edition
- Additional cross-references and word study helps from leading dictionaries
by David Plotz
This is by far the best alternative to reading the entire Hebrew Bible – a task that doesn’t keep the attention span of many such as myself for very long. Plotz, the editor of the popular magazine Slate, takes you through the Jewish scripture and is able to keep you engaged through his brilliant use of humor and constructive feedback. It would routinely leave me laughing out loud, something a book hasn’t succeeded in doing for quite some time. A.J. Jacobs, author of “A Year of Living Biblically,” had this to say: “Like the Bible itself, Good Book contains multitudes—it is by turns thought-provoking, funny, enlightening and moving. In short, David Plotz’s book easily lives up to its name. Trust me, Thou shalt enjoy.”
by Kenneth C. Davis
David attempts to teach us everything we need to know about the Bible but never learned. Davis brings to life the world of the Bible by putting it in historical context and attempting to clear up misconceptions and mistranslations. He summarizes Bible stories and parables, adding his own interpretive insights.
by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
a one-stop course on the Bible that offers readers—whether religious or not—every Bible story and passage they need to know. Professor Tim Beal has selected the Bible stories that have shaped history and our world and provides the key information we need to understand their significance and meaning. Whether atheist or believer, readers will benefit from this entry-level course into the heart of the most influential book ever written.
by John A. Buehrens
A thoughtful, warm, and witty introduction Understanding the Bible is designed to help empower skeptics, seekers, nonbelievers, and those of a liberal and progressive outlook to reclaim the Bible from literalists. In making accessible some of the best contemporary historical, literary, political, and feminist readings of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, it encourages all who would find in the biblical heritage an ally and not an enemy in the quest for a more just and humane world. Brief and to the point, it can easily be used to stimulate group discussions and personal reading of the biblical texts themselves, and is an excellent introduction to the Judeo-Christian tradition for those of other faiths.
by James H. Charlesworth
Key second-temple texts with introductions and notes by an international team of scholars– now available in affordable softcover bindings.
The writers of the Bible lived in a world filled with many writings. Some of these documents are lost forever, but many have been preserved. Part of these extant sources are the Pseudepigrapha. This collection of Jewish and Christian writings shed light in early Judaism and Christianity and their doctrines.
This landmark set includes all 65 Pseudepigraphical documents from the intertestamental period that reveal the ongoing development of Judaism and the roots from which the Christian religion took its beliefs. A scholarly authority on each text contributes a translation, introduction, and critical notes for each text. Volume 1 features apocalyptic literature and testaments. Volume 2 includes expansions of the “Old Testament”: legends, wisdom, and philosophical literature; prayers, psalms, and odes; and fragments of lost Judeo-Hellenistic Works.
Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism (A must read!)
by Howard Schwartz
The first anthology of Jewish mythology in English, Tree of Souls reveals a mythical tradition as rich and as fascinating as any in the world. Drawing from the Bible, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud and Midrash, the kabbalistic literature, medieval folklore, Hasidic texts, and oral lore collected in the modern era, Schwartz has gathered together nearly 700 of the key Jewish myths. The myths themselves are marvelous. We read of Adams diamond and the Land of Eretz (where it is always dark), the fall of Lucifer and the quarrel of the sun and the moon, the Treasury of Souls and the Divine Chariot. We discover new tales about the great figures of the Hebrew Bible, from Adam to Moses; stories about God’s Bride, the Shekhinah, and the evil temptress, Lilith; plus many tales about angels and demons, spirits and vampires, giant beasts and the Golem. Equally important, Schwartz provides a wealth of additional information. For each myth, he includes extensive commentary, revealing the source of the myth and explaining how it relates to other Jewish myths as well as to world literature (for instance, comparing Eves release of evil into the world with Pandoras). For ease of use, Schwartz divides the volume into ten books, Myths of God, Myths of Creation, Myths of Heaven, Myths of Hell, Myths of the Holy Word, Myths of the Holy Time, Myths of the Holy People, Myths of the Holy Land, Myths of Exile, and Myths of the Messiah.
by Geza Vermes
Since its publication in 1962, esteemed biblical expert Géza Vermes’s translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls has established itself as the authoritative standard. The original manuscripts, discovered in the Judean Desert between 1947 and 1956, completely transformed our understanding of the Hebrew Bible, early Judaism, and the origin of Christianity. Now in its seventh edition, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English has been updated with a number of previously unpublished texts, as well as extensive new introductory material and notes. Some sixty years after the Scrolls’ discovery, this revised and expanded volume crowns a lifetime of research by Vermes.
by Marvin W. Meyer and James M. Robinson
The most complete, up-to-date, one-volume, English-language edition of the renowned library of Gnostic manuscripts discovered in Egypt in 1945, which rivaled the Dead Sea Scrolls find in significance. It includes the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and the recently discovered Gospel of Judas, as well as other Gnostic gospels and sacred texts. This volume also includes introductory essays, notes, tables, glossary, index, etc. to help the reader understand the context and contemporary significance of these texts which have shed new light on early Christianity and ancient thought. The compilation of ancient manuscripts that constitute The Nag Hammadi Scriptures is a discovery that challenges everything we thought we knew about the early Christian church, ancient Judaism, and Greco-Roman religions.
by Bart Ehrman
While most people think that the twenty-seven books of the New Testament are the only sacred writings of the early Christians, this is not at all the case. A companion volume to Bart Ehrman’s Lost Christianities, this book offers an anthology of up-to-date and readable translations of many non-canonical writings from the first centuries after Christ–texts that have been for the most part lost or neglected for almost two millennia. Here is an array of remarkably varied writings from early Christian groups whose visions of Jesus differ dramatically from our contemporary understanding.
by Bart D. Ehrman and Zlatko Plese
Ehrman and Plese present a rare compilation of over 40 ancient gospel texts and textual fragments that do not appear in the New Testament. This essential collection contains Gospels describing Jesus’s infancy, ministry, Passion, and resurrection, as well as the most controversial manuscript discoveries of modern times, including the most significant Gospel discovered in the 20th century–the Gospel of Thomas–and the most recently discovered Gospel, the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. For the first time ever, these sacred manuscripts are featured in the original Greek, Latin, and Coptic languages, accompanied by fresh English translations that appear next to the original texts, allowing for easy line by line comparison. Also, each translation begins with a thoughtful examination of key historical, literary, and textual issues that places each Gospel in its proper context. The end result is a resource that enables anyone interested in Christianity or the early Church to understand–better than ever before–the deeper meanings of these apocryphal Gospels.
by Bart Ehrman
The early Christian Church was a chaos of contending beliefs. Some groups of Christians claimed that there was not one God but two or twelve or thirty. Some believed that the world had not been created by God but by a lesser, ignorant deity. Certain sects maintained that Jesus was human but not divine, while others said he was divine but not human. In Lost Christianities, Bart D. Ehrman offers a fascinating look at these early forms of Christianity and shows how they came to be suppressed, reformed, or forgotten. All of these groups insisted that they upheld the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, and they all possessed writings that bore out their claims, books reputedly produced by Jesus’s own followers. Modern archaeological work has recovered a number of key texts, and as Ehrman shows, these spectacular discoveries reveal religious diversity that says much about the ways in which history gets written by the winners.
by Craig A. Evans
One of the daunting challenges facing the New Testament interpreter is achieving familiarity with the immense corpus of related literatures. Scholars and students alike must have a fundamental understanding of the content, provenance, and utility for New Testament interpretation of a wide range of pagan, Jewish, and diversely Christian documents. Now in paperback, this thoroughly revised and significantly expanded edition of Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation examines a vast range of ancient literature, masterfully distilling details of date, language, text, and translation into an eminently usable handbook. Craig Evans evaluates the materials’ relevance for interpreting the New Testament and provides essential biographies.
by J.R. Porter
A fascinating introduction to sacred writings of great profundity and aesthetic merit that did not become part of the canon of the Old and New Testaments. In the centuries around the beginning of the Common Era, the Jewish people drew faith and inspiration from hundreds of sacred writings, not just those that make up the Hebrew Bible we know today. Early Christianity itself produced a wealth of sacred writings, which, though they did not become part of the New Testament, were popular among believers and important in spreading the faith. After the canons of the Jewish and Christian Bibles were established, many of these works disappeared into obscurity. Some were lost entirely; others survived in translations.
The Human Faces of God (A must read!)
by Thom Stark
Does accepting the doctrine of biblical inspiration necessitate belief in biblical inerrancy? The Bible has always functioned authoritatively in the life of the church, but what exactly should that mean? Must it mean the Bible is without error in all historical details and ethical teachings? What should thoughtful Christians do with texts that propose God is pleased by human sacrifice or that God commanded Israel to commit acts of genocide? What about texts that contain historical errors or predictions that have gone unfulfilled long beyond their expiration dates?
In The Human Faces of God, Thom Stark moves beyond notions of inerrancy in order to confront such problematic texts and open up a conversation about new ways they can be used in service of the church and its moral witness today. Readers looking for an academically informed yet accessible discussion of the Bible’s thorniest texts will find a thought-provoking and indispensable resource in The Human Faces of God.
by Bart Ehrman
In this New York Times bestseller, leading Bible expert Bart Ehrman skillfully demonstrates that the New Testament is riddled with contradictory views about who Jesus was and the significance of his life. Ehrman reveals that many of the books were written in the names of the apostles by Christians living decades later, and that central Christian doctrines were the inventions of still later theologians. Although this has been the standard and widespread view of scholars for two centuries, most people have never learned of it.
by Randel McCraw Helms
All books are written for or against some point of view, and the books of the Bible are no different. Bible book authors were often motivated to write because they wanted to challenge or correct those who had written before them. As Helms explains, The Bible is a war-zone, and its authors are the combatants. Paul said of Peter, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong (Gal. 2:11). Helms notes that Jeremiah condemned the entire religious establishment of his time the very same people that other Bible authors held in highest esteem: prophets and priests are frauds, every one of them (Jer. 8:10). Luke felt the need to write another gospel even though many writers have undertaken to draw up an account of the events (Luke 1:1). Luke obviously felt that Mark s gospel was filled with errors and edited it freely. Not even Mark s account of the words of the dying Christ was left unaltered.
by C. Dennis McKinsey
This important new volume is the most comprehensive critique of the Bible ever written. In The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, McKinsey strives to tell both the good and the bad of biblical writings with the most comprehensive and thoroughly-researched expose of the Bible’s many errors, contradictions, and fallacies. Loaded with thousands of biblical citations, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy vividly proves the Bible to be its own worst enemy.
by Bart Ehrman
It is often said, even by critical scholars who should know better, that “writing in the name of another” was widely accepted in antiquity. But New York Times bestselling author Bart D. Ehrman dares to call it what it was: literary forgery, a practice that was as scandalous then as it is today. In Forged, Ehrman’s fresh and original research takes readers back to the ancient world, where forgeries were used as weapons by unknown authors to fend off attacks to their faith and establish their church. So, if many of the books in the Bible were not in fact written by Jesus’s inner circle—but by writers living decades later, with differing agendas in rival communities—what does that do to the authority of Scripture?
by Bart Ehrman
Ehrman explains the copying practises of the earliest period and how the texts of the New Testament writings were corrupted as they were copied and recopied. He begins by introducing the diverse writings produced by the early Christians, such as gospels, Acts, apocalypses, Church orders, apologies etc. Briefly, the formation of the canon is also discussed and we are informed about the literacy level among the early Christians. Thereafter we are introduced to the world of the copyists and Ehrman explains how the early scribes copied texts and the problems associated with the copying of texts.
by Bart Ehrman
In this sometimes provocative, often pedantic memoir of his own attempts to answer the great theological question about the persistence of evil in the world, Ehrman, a UNC–Chapel Hill religion professor, refuses to accept the standard theological answers. Through close readings of every section of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, he discovers that the Bible offers numerous answers that are often contradictory. The prophets think God sends pain and suffering as a punishment for sin and also that human beings who oppress others create such misery; the writers who tell the Jesus story and the Joseph stories think God works through suffering to achieve redemptive purposes; the writers of Job view pain as God’s test; and the writers of Job and Ecclesiastes conclude that we simply cannot know why we suffer. In the end, frustrated that the Bible offers such a range of opposing answers, Ehrman gives up on his Christian faith and fashions a peculiarly utilitarian solution to suffering and evil in the world: first, make this life as pleasing to ourselves as we can and then make it pleasing to others.
by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
In this insightful and completely updated tome, esteemed rabbi and bestselling author Joseph Telushkin helps answer the question of what it means to be a Jew, in the largest sense. Widely recognized as one of the most respected and indispensable reference books on Jewish life, culture, tradition, and religion, Jewish Literacy covers every essential aspect of the Jewish people and Judaism. In 352 short and engaging chapters, Rabbi Telushkin discusses everything from the Jewish Bible and Talmud to Jewish notions of ethics to antisemitism and the Holocaust; from the history of Jews around the world to Zionism and the politics of a Jewish state; from the significance of religious traditions and holidays to how they are practiced in daily life. Whether you want to know more about Judaism in general or have specific questions you’d like answered, Jewish Literacy is sure to contain the information you need.
by Karen Armstrong
In this stunningly intelligent book, Karen Armstrong, one of Britain’s foremost commentators on religious affairs, traces the history of how men and women have perceived and experienced God, from the time of Abraham to the present. From classical philsophy and medieval mysticism to the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the modern age of skepticism, Karen Armstrong performs the near miracle of distilling the intellectual history of monotheism into one superbly readable volume, destined to take its place as a classic.
by Karen Armstrong
In our supposedly secular age governed by reason and technology, fundamentalism has emerged as an overwhelming force in every major world religion. Why? This is the fascinating, disturbing question that bestselling author Karen Armstrong addresses in her brilliant new book The Battle for God. Writing with the broad perspective and deep understanding of human spirituality that won huge audiences for A History of God, Armstrong illuminates the spread of militant piety as a phenomenon peculiar to our moment in history.
Contrary to popular belief, fundamentalism is not a throwback to some ancient form of religion but rather a response to the spiritual crisis of the modern world. As Armstrong argues, the collapse of a piety rooted in myth and cult during the Renaissance forced people of faith to grasp for new ways of being religious–and fundamentalism was born. Armstrong focuses here on three fundamentalist movements: Protestant fundamentalism in America, Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, and Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt and Iran–exploring how each has developed its own unique way of combating the assaults of modernity.
by John J. Collins
The Apocalyptic Imagination by John Collins is one of the most widely praised studies of Jewish apocalyptic literature ever written. And this second edition of Collins’s study represents a complete updating and rewriting of the original work. Especially noteworthy is the chapter on the Dead Sea Scrolls, which now takes into account all of the recently published texts. Other chapters discuss apocalypse as a literary genre, explore the phenomenon and function of apocalypticism in the ancient world, study a wide range of individual apocalyptic texts, and examine the apocalyptic character of early Christianity.
The creation of the Christian Church is one of the most important stories in the development of the world’s history, but also one of the most enigmatic and little understood, shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding.
Through a forensic, brilliant reexamination of all the key surviving texts of early Christianity, Geza Vermes illuminates the origins of a faith and traces the evolution of the figure of Jesus from the man he was—a prophet recognizable as the successor to other Jewish holy men of the Old Testament—to what he came to represent: a mysterious, otherworldly being at the heart of a major new religion. As Jesus’s teachings spread across the eastern Mediterranean, hammered into place by Paul, John, and their successors, they were transformed in the space of three centuries into a centralized, state-backed creed worlds away from its humble origins. Christian Beginnings tells the captivating story of how a man came to be hailed as the Son consubstantial with God, and of how a revolutionary, anticonformist Jewish subsect became the official state religion of the Roman Empire.
by Bard Ehrman
The remarkable diversity of Christianity during the formative years before the Council of Nicea has become a plain, even natural, “fact” for most ancient historians. Until now, however, there has been no sourcebook of primary texts that reveals the many varieties of Christian beliefs, practices, ethics, experiences, confrontations, and self-understandings. To help readers recognize and experience the rich diversity of the early Christian movement, After the New Testament provides a wide range of texts from the second and third centuries, both “orthodox” and “heterodox,” including such works as the Apostolic Fathers, the writings of Nag Hammadi, early pseudepigrapha, martyrologies, anti-Jewish tractates, heresiologies, canon lists, church orders, liturgical texts, and theological treatises. Rather than providing only fragments of texts, this collection prints large excerpts–entire documents wherever possible–organized under social and historical rubrics.
by Geoffrey Wainwright (Editor), Karen B. Westerfield Tucker (Editor)
The Oxford History of Christian Worship is a comprehensive and authoritative history of the origins and development of Christian worship to the present day. Backed by an international roster of experts as contributors, this new book will examine the liturgical traditions of Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant, and Pentecostal traditions throughout history and across the world. With 240 photographs and 10 maps, the full geographical spread of Christianity is covered, including Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, East Asia, and the Pacific. Following contemporary trends in scholarship, it will cover social and cultural contexts, material culture and the arts.
by Ramsay MacMullen
MacMullen and Lane’s Paganism and Christianity (100-425 C.E) presents readers with an eclectic array of writings touching every facet of religious life in the Late Roman world. These varied sources were penned by authors as conflicting as Eusebius and Julian and they deal with intriguing aspects of pagan cultus, pagan missionary activity, the Imperial Cult, the Persecutions and also provide pagan and Christian apologetic/theological literature. Overall, these pieces of literature paint a vibrant picture of religious life during this fascinating epoch in history and they convey something of the richness that the multiform belief systems of the Mediterranean world had to offer. Many of these sources are very difficult to find in English translation; and many of them can be quite expensive. So this sourcebook is indispensable, given that it is quite affordable, convenient and very useful.
Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (A must read!)
by James D. Tabor
This fascinating examination of the earliest years of Christianity reveals sharply competing ideas about the significance of Jesus and his teachings and shows how the man we call St. Paul shaped Christianity as we know it today.
Using the oldest Christian documents that we have—the letters of Paul—as well as other early Christian sources, historian and scholar James Tabor reconstructs the origins of Christianity. Tabor reveals that the familiar figures of James, Peter, and Paul sometimes disagreed fiercely over everything from the meaning of Jesus’ message to the question of whether converts must first become Jews. Tabor shows how Paul separated himself from Peter and James to introduce his own version of Christianity, which would continue to develop independently of the message that Jesus, James, and Peter preached.
by Alan F. Segal
Alan Segal gives us a whole new perspective of the Apostle Paul from a Jewish scholar who is well versed in first century Judaism. By placing Paul in his own time and culture rather than trying to identify him with the church which canonized him as a saint hundreds of years after his death, we get a much better understanding of a man who, although a prolific writer, remains an enigma.
Segal tries to understand Paul as a fellow Jew and neither lionizes him as the hero of Christendom nor disparages him as a self seeking adventurer who turned Christianity into a Hellenistic mystery religion. Segal describes Paul as a Pharisaic Jew who converted to an apocalyptic form of Judaism (primitive Christianity) based upon his revelation of the risen Christ and his years spent in Syria living with a community of gentile believers who enabled him to interpret the meaning of his revelation.
by E.P. Sanders
E.P. Sanders, an influential Pauline scholar, analyzes the fundamental beliefs and vigorous contradictions in Paul’s thought, discovering a philosophy that is less of a monolithic system than the apostle’s convictions would seem to suggest. This volume offers an incisive summation of Paul’s career, as well as his role in the development of early Christianity. Both lucid and judicious, it is the most compelling short introduction to Paul now available.
St. Paul versus St. Peter: A Tale of Two Missions (A must read!)
by Michael Goulder
Most Christians believe that there was essentially only one early church which was later imperiled by false teachings. The New Testament was the developing statement of this early church, and from it grew the whole structure of Christian belief. In this remarkable book, Michael Goulder sets out to disprove this commonly held theory. Goulder shows how, by appealing to the gentiles, Paul usurped authority from Peter, ending the mission set in motion by Jesus.
The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity (A must read!)
by Jeffrey J. Butz
Using the canonical Gospels, writings of the Church Fathers, and apocryphal texts, Bütz argues that James is the most overlooked figure in the history of the Church. He shows how the core teachings of Jesus are firmly rooted in Hebraic tradition; reveals the bitter battles between James and Paul for ideological supremacy in the early Church; and explains how Paul’s interpretations, which became the foundation of the Church, are in many ways its betrayal. Bütz reveals a picture of Christianity and the true meaning of Christ’s message that are sometimes at odds with established Christian doctrine and concludes that James can serve as a desperately needed missing link between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam to heal the wounds of centuries of enmity.
by Elaine Pagels
In the Old Testament he is merely the Adversary, a forbidding member of God’s retinue. How then did Satan become the Gospels’ prince of darkness, who brings about the crucifixion of Jesus as part of a cosmic struggle between good and evil? And why did jesus’ followers increasingly identify Satan with their human antagonists—first Jews, then pagans, and then heretics of their own faith?
From the religious historian whose The Gnostic Gospels won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award comes a dramatic interpretation of Satan and his role on the Christian tradition. With magisterial learning and the elan of a born storyteller, Pagels turns Satan’s story into an audacious exploration of Christianity’s shadow side, in which the gospel of love gives way to irrational hatreds that continue to haunt Christians and non-Christians alike.
by Candida Moss
In The Myth of Persecution, Candida Moss, a leading expert on early Christianity, reveals how the early church exaggerated, invented, and forged stories of Christian martyrs and how the dangerous legacy of a martyrdom complex is employed today to silence dissent and galvanize a new generation of culture warriors.
According to cherished church tradition and popular belief, before the Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal in the fourth century, early Christians were systematically persecuted by a brutal Roman Empire intent on their destruction. As the story goes, vast numbers of believers were thrown to the lions, tortured, or burned alive because they refused to renounce Christ. These saints, Christianity’s inspirational heroes, are still venerated today.
Moss, however, exposes that the “Age of Martyrs” is a fiction—there was no sustained 300-year-long effort by the Romans to persecute Christians. Instead, these stories were pious exaggerations; highly stylized rewritings of Jewish, Greek, and Roman noble death traditions; and even forgeries designed to marginalize heretics, inspire the faithful, and fund churches.
by David L. Holmes
It is not uncommon to hear Christians argue that America was founded as a Christian nation. But how true is this claim?
In this compact book, David L. Holmes offers a clear, concise and illuminating look at the spiritual beliefs of our founding fathers. He begins with an informative account of the religious culture of the late colonial era, surveying the religious groups in each colony. In particular, he sheds light on the various forms of Deism that flourished in America, highlighting the profound influence this intellectual movement had on the founding generation. Holmes then examines the individual beliefs of a variety of men and women who loom large in our national history. Although the founding fathers were religious men, Holmes shows that it was a faith quite unlike the Christianity of today’s evangelicals. Holmes concludes by examining the role of religion in the lives of the presidents since World War II and by reflecting on the evangelical resurgence that helped fuel the reelection of George W. Bush.
by T.M. Lurhmann
A bold approach to understanding the American evangelical experience from an anthropological and psychological perspective by one of the country’s most prominent anthropologists.
Through a series of intimate, illuminating interviews with various members of the Vineyard, an evangelical church with hundreds of congregations across the country, Tanya Luhrmann leaps into the heart of evangelical faith. Combined with scientific research that studies the effect that intensely practiced prayer can have on the mind, When God Talks Back examines how normal, sensible people—from college students to accountants to housewives, all functioning perfectly well within our society—can attest to having the signs and wonders of the supernatural become as quotidian and as ordinary as laundry. Astute, sensitive, and extraordinarily measured in its approach to the interface between science and religion, Luhrmann’s book is sure to generate as much conversation as it will praise.
by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. He now shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders, taking readers inside isolated American communities where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists still practice polygamy.
Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God.
by E.P. Sanders
E.P. Sanders is a biblical scholar of the highest order, and presents a reader-friendly (and appreciably less technical though still academically formulated) account of Jesus of Nazareth in which he ups the statements he now considers as “almost beyond dispute” to 15 and attempts to draw his picture of Jesus around these chosen static points. Sanders neither pronounces on the Jesus of faith nor sets his view against later Christian dogma in this study of “Jesus the human being.
by E.P. Sanders
This book marks a critical point in the current trend of historical Jesus research. The basic layout uncovers a Jesus who was very much a practicing Jew of his time and within the culture of his people. Part of that culture included the expectation of a messiah who would redeem Israel from its current bondage under the Roman empire. Such an event or historical turning point is known as eschatology. Sanders argues that Jesus believed an eschatological episode was imminent, and seems to have considered his own role in the matter rather critical. Some of the more noteworthy discussions include a vivid definition of “sinners” as first-century Jews would have understood it, eschatological concepts behind Jesus’ selection of twelve disciples, and a very impressive section on the kingdom sayings. He also unveils an interesting eschatological model from the so-called “cleansing of the temple” episode.
by John Meier
John Meier’s “A Marginal Jew” is the leading study of the historical Jesus of our time. This reputation is clearly well-deserved. The first volume only deals with the basic contours of his life, but it is the most intelligent discussion of these questions available. He distinguishes between “what I know about Jesus by research and what I hold by faith.” His study is a necessary purchase for academic libraries.
Volume one concluded with Jesus approaching adulthood. Now, in this volume, Meier focuses on the Jesus of our memory and the development of his ministry. To begin, Meier identifies Jesus’s mentor, the one person who had the greatest single influence on him, John the Baptist. All of the Baptist’s fiery talk about the end of time had a powerful effect on the young Jesus and the formulation of his key symbol of the coming of the “kingdom of God.” And, finally, we are given a full investigation of one of the most striking manifestations of Jesus’s message: Jesus’s practice of exorcisms, hearings, and other miracles. In all, Meier brings to life the story of a man, Jesus, who by his life and teaching gradually made himself marginal even to the marginal society that was first century Palestine.
Jesus the Jew (A must read!)
by Geza Vermes
This now classic book is a significant corrective to several recent developments in the study of the historical Jesus. In contrast to depictions of Jesus as a wandering Cynic teacher, Geza Vermes offers a portrait based on evidence of charismatic activity in first-century Galilee. Vermes shows how the major New Testament titles of Jesus-prophet, Lord, Messiah, son of man, Son of God-can be understood in this historical context. The result is a description of Jesus that retains its power and its credibility.
by Stevan L. Davies
It is strange, Stevan Davies points out, that while virtually all those engaged in research into the historical Jesus presuppose that Jesus was a teacher and that all his actions were part of a teaching ministry, they are also largely agreed that it is almost impossible to discover precisely what he taught. Moreover,many of these scholars are also themselves teachers. So might there not be a good deal of the ‘Jesus in our image’, which Albert Schweitzer brilliantly criticized, in their approach? Fully aware of the problems associated with the quest, he therefore sets out to see Jesus rather as primarily a spirit-possessed healer and an exorcist of demon-possessed people. This new approach, made in the light of contemporary anthropological and psychological studies, sheds fascinating new light on the tradition of the Synoptic Gospels, and can also be extended fruitfully into the writings of Paul and John, with striking results.
by Graham H. Twelftree
That the synoptic writers believed that Jesus cast out demons and that such a role figured prominently in the Synoptics’ portrait of him can scarcely be denied. And yet, only scant scholarly attention has been focused on Jesus’ role as exorcist. Even less consideration has been given to the significance of Jesus as exorcist for understanding the historical Jesus.
Now, in a provocative and insightful study, Graham Twelftree helps New Testament scholars move beyond such myopia. Twelftree examines exorcists and exorcisms in first-century Palestine, assesses the New Testament accounts of demons and their demise, and explores the implications and significance of the fact that Jesus was indeed an exorcist.
by Dale C. Allison
Dale Allison’s clearly written Jesus of Nazareth enables people who have followed recent discussions to vindicate and reclaim the central religious significance of the historical Jesus.
In the tradition of Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer, he has joined E.P. Sanders on the barricades to defend a view of Jesus as an eschatological/apocalyptic prophet.
by Robert J. Miller (Editor), Dale C. Allison Jr. (Contributor), Marcus J. Borg (Contributor), John Dominic Crossan (Contributor), Stephen J. Patterson (Contributor)
Did the historical Jesus preach that God was about to bring an end to human history and impose the divine kingdom on the earth and all its peoples? Four eminent New Testament scholars -Dale Allison, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Stephen Patterson- come together under the direction of Robert J. Miller to debate this, the single most important question about the historical Jesus. Borg, Crossan, and Patterson argue that Jesus taught that God’s kingdom was already here, not that it was coming in the near future. Dale Allison defends the widely-held view that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. Everyone’s cards are on the table in this candid exchange.
by Bart Ehrman
In his engaging study, Ehrman, associate professor of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, argues that Jesus can be best understood as a “first-century Jewish apocalypticist…who fully expected that the history of the world as he knew it was going to come to a screeching halt and that God was going to overthrow the forces of evil in a cosmic act of judgment.” The author contends that this portrait of Jesus, first proclaimed by Albert Schweitzer in The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906), has been overlooked in the rush to draw Jesus in the images of whatever scholarly or popular movement is painting Him. Ehrman examines carefully noncanonical and canonical sources as he reconstructs the life of Jesus.
by Bart Ehrman
The claim at the heart of the Christian faith is that Jesus of Nazareth was, and is, God. But this is not what the original disciples believed during Jesus’s lifetime—and it is not what Jesus claimed about himself. How Jesus Became God tells the story of an idea that shaped Christianity, and of the evolution of a belief that looked very different in the fourth century than it did in the first.
A master explainer of Christian history, texts, and traditions, Ehrman reveals how an apocalyptic prophet from the backwaters of rural Galilee crucified for crimes against the state came to be thought of as equal with the one God Almighty, Creator of all things. But how did he move from being a Jewish prophet to being God? In a book that took eight years to research and write, Ehrman sketches Jesus’s transformation from a human prophet to the Son of God exalted to divine status at his resurrection. Only when some of Jesus’s followers had visions of him after his death—alive again—did anyone come to think that he, the prophet from Galilee, had become God. And what they meant by that was not at all what people mean today.
by Bart Ehrman
In Did Jesus Exist? historian and Bible expert Bart Ehrman confronts the question, “Did Jesus exist at all?” Ehrman vigorously defends the historical Jesus, identifies the most historically reliable sources for best understanding Jesus’ mission and message, and offers a compelling portrait of the person at the heart of the Christian tradition.
Known as a master explainer with deep knowledge of the field, Bart Ehrman methodically demolishes both the scholarly and popular “mythicist” arguments against the existence of Jesus. Marshaling evidence from within the Bible and the wider historical record of the ancient world, Ehrman tackles the key issues that surround the mythologies associated with Jesus and the early Christian movement.
by Paula Fredriksen
In this exciting book, Paula Fredriksen explains the variety of New Testament images of Jesus by exploring the ways that the new Christian communities interpreted his mission and message in light of the delay of the Kingdom he had preached. A new introduction reviews the most recent scholarship on Jesus and its implications for both history, and theology.
by John Dominic Crossan & Richard G. Watts
This is a great book for many kinds of readers interested in the historical Jesus as understood by one of the contemporary world’s most noted scholars. It is an especially good introduction for those who are interested but have little prior reading in historical Jesus studies and little theological training. The question and answer format and the small “chunks” of text make it easy to approach, and the vocabulary is easier than most books of its kind. Even those who have already read some of Crossan’s more scholarly books will enjoy this one. The last section of the book also offers material not included in other books, material at once more personal and more focused on the implications of historical Jesus studies for present-day life in the world and in Christian churches.
by Luke Timothy Johnson, John Dominic Crossan, Robert M. Price, James D.G. Dunn, and Darrell L. Bock
The Historical Jesus: Five Views provides a venue for readers to sit in on a virtual seminar on the historical Jesus. Beginning with a scene-setting historical introduction by the editors, prominent figures in the Jesus quest set forth their views and respond to their fellow scholars. On the one end Robert M. Price lucidly maintains that the probability of Jesus’ existence has reached the “vanishing point,” and on the other Darrell Bock ably argues that while critical method yields only a “gist” of Jesus, it takes us in the direction of the Gospel portraits. In between there are numerous avenues to explore, questions to be asked and “assured results” to be weighed.
by John S. Kloppenborg
Estimated to date back to the very early Jesus movement, the lost Gospel known as Q offers a distinct and remarkable picture of Jesus and his significance–and one that differs markedly from that offered by its contemporary, the apostle Paul.
Q presents Jesus as a prophetic critic of unbelief and a sage with the wisdom that can transform. In Q, the true meaning of the “kingdom of God” is the fulfillment of a just society through the transformation of the human relationships within it.
Though this document has never been found, John Kloppenborg offers a succinct account of why scholars maintain it existed in the first place and demonstrates how they have been able to reconstruct its contents and wording from the two later Gospels that used it as a source: Matthew and Luke. Presented here in its entirety, as developed by the International Q Project, this Gospel reveals a very different portrait of Jesus than in much of the later canonical writings, challenging the way we think of Christian origins and the very nature and mission of Jesus Christ.
by Geza Vermes
Profoundly aware of the limits of our knowledge but immersed in what we do have—both the “official” gospels and associated Jewish and early Christian texts—Vermes sieves through every quote ascribed to Jesus to let the reader get as close as possible to the charismatic Jewish healer and moralist who changed the world. The result is a book that creates a revolutionary and unexpected picture of Jesus—scraping aside the accretions of centuries to approach as close as we can hope to his true teaching.
by Amy-Jill Levine et al.
The Historical Jesus in Context is a landmark collection that places the gospel narratives in their full literary, social, and archaeological context. More than twenty-five internationally recognized experts offer new translations and descriptions of a broad range of texts that shed new light on the Jesus of history, including pagan prayers and private inscriptions, miracle tales and martyrdoms, parables and fables, divorce decrees and imperial propaganda.
The translated materials–from Christian, Coptic, and Jewish as well as Greek, Roman, and Egyptian texts–extend beyond single phrases to encompass the full context, thus allowing readers to locate Jesus in a broader cultural setting than is usually made available. This book demonstrates that only by knowing the world in which Jesus lived and taught can we fully understand him, his message, and the spread of the Gospel.
Gathering in one place material that was previously available only in disparate sources, this formidable book provides innovative insight into matters no less grand than first-century Jewish and Gentile life, the composition of the Gospels, and Jesus himself.
The World of the New Testament
What was life like for first-century Christians? In The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era James Jeffers provides an informative and scenic tour of daily life during the time of Jesus and the apostles. He affords “you-are-there” glimpses of everything from legal codes to dinner foods, from social hierarchy to apartment living, from education to family dynamics. His eye-opening book will advance your understanding of the New Testament and early Christianity and enrich your reading and application of the Bible.
This one-of-a-kind presentation of the New Testament world and its archaeological treasures provides a new, more complete understanding of the world in which Christianity was born. Through lavish photographs, architectural plans, extensive maps, and detailed charts, you can explore the landscape of Nazareth where Jesus grew up; sit at the shores of Galilee where he preached; and enter the streets and temple of Jerusalem where his ministry was fulfilled. An experienced archaeologist and biblical expert will guide you throughout your journey around Israel and beyond—on the Mediterranean voyages of Paul to the homes and synagogues of the Roman Empire, where he planted the seeds of Christianity. Visit Emperor Nero’s “Golden House,” witness the desperation of the Jewish revolutionaries at Masada, and explore the magnificent basilicas of Constantine the Great.
The HarperCollins Visual Guide to the New Testament features:
- Rich descriptions of the worlds of Jesus, Paul, and the first Christians
- Full-color photographs of excavations, artifacts, coins, and pottery from New Testament sites
- Extensive maps
- Architectural floor plans of temples, palaces, and synagogues
- Commentary on how archaeology relates to the Bible
- Examination of modern excavation techniques and methods
- A beginners’ guide to understanding pottery, coins, temples, and inscriptions
Dictionary of New Testament Background (A must read!)
The importance of a work such as this one cannot be stressed enough. In order to truly understand the New Testament, one must understand the world into which it was born. The Dictionary of New Testament Background gives the reader a comprehensive survey of the historical, social, religious, and literary context of the New Testament documents in a single volume. The amount of information contained in this one is tremendous, but not overwhelming, and always relevant. It is also clearly written and up-to-date. All students, from the beginner to the scholar, will find this dictionary to be a useful resource in New Testament study.
Designed for teachers, students, and general readers, this book offers reliable and up-to-date information about important sites, persons, customs, and other facts of life that are important for understanding Jesus and his cultural setting. The 108 entries are arranged alphabetically for easy reference. Also includes tables, charts, glossary, bibliography, indexes, and more.
by Ekkehard W. Stegemann
Now in paperback, this monumental work by two continental New Testament scholars is the first comprehensive social history of the earliest churches. Integrating the historical and social data it locates the ancient Judeans and the Jesus Movement in their respective matrices. The Stegemanns deal with such issues as: conflict between the messianic communitites and the rest of Judaism, religious pluralism social stratification, group composition, gender division, ancient economics, and urban/rural distinction. This volume offers both an introduction to these social issues, as well as fresh insights and analysis, and includes: Integration of social history, social-scientific analyses, and theological analyses Focus on the role of women in the Jesus Movement and early churches Maps, charts, and diagrams.
The context of Jesus, his followers, and the early movement What do the social sciences have to contribute to the study of Jesus and the Gospels? This is the fundamental question that these essays all address – from analyses of ancient economics to altered states of consciousness, politics, ritual, kinship, and labeling. Most key contemporary scholars in the field are represented, and the essays cover a wide range of issues related to the gospels, including miracles, exorcisms, honour/shame etc.
A landmark study of Hellenistic Judaism by one of the world’s recognized experts-now fully revised and updated. One of the most creative and consequential collisions in Western culture involved the encounter of Judaism with Hellenism. In his widely acclaimed study of the intellectual and moral relationship between “Athens and Jerusalem”, John J. Collins examines the literature of Hellenistic Judaism, treating not only the introductory questions of date, authorship, and provenance, but also the larger question of Jewish identity in the Greco-Roman world
In this classic work, Wayne Meeks analyses the earliest extant documents of Christianity – the letters of Paul – to describe the tensions and the texture of life of the first urban Christians. In a new introduction, he describes the evolution of the field of New Testament scholarship over the last two decades of the 20th century, including developments in fields such as archaeology and social history.
Though the New Testament gospels are some of the most extraordinary documents ever written, the picture they provide of Jesus’s world is a very partial one. This remarkable work paints a comprehensive and colorful picture of the world that Jesus knew. From detailed, convincing portraits of John the Baptist, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Jesus himself, and other key figures, to the Jewish and Hellenistic leaders often ignored in scripture, Who’s Who in the Age of Jesus is a critical, in-depth look at one of the most tumultuous eras in human history.
by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman
In this iconoclastic and provocative work, leading scholars Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman draw on recent archaeological research to present a dramatically revised portrait of ancient Israel and its neighbors. They argue that crucial evidence (or a telling lack of evidence) at digs in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon suggests that many of the most famous stories in the Bible — the wanderings of the patriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt, Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, and David and Solomon’s vast empire — reflect the world of the later authors rather than actual historical facts.
by Israel Finkelstein
Three decades of dialogue, discussion, and debate within the interrelated disciplines of Syro-Palestinian archaeology, ancient Israelite history, and Hebrew Bible over the question of the relevance of the biblical account for reconstructing early Israels history have created the need for a balanced articulation of the issues and their prospective resolutions. This book brings together for the first time and under one cover, a currently emerging centrist paradigm as articulated by two leading figures in the fields of early Israelite archaeology and history. Although Finkelstein and Mazar advocate distinct views of early Israels history, they nevertheless share the position that the material cultural data, the biblical traditions, and the ancient Near Eastern written sources are all significantly relevant to the historical quest for Iron Age Israel. The results of their research are featured in accessible, parallel syntheses of the historical reconstruction of early Israel that facilitate comparison and contrast of their respective interpretations. The historical essays presented here are based on invited lectures delivered in October of 2005 at the Sixth Biennial Colloquium of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism in Detroit, Michigan.
by Mark S. Smith
In this remarkable history of the development of monotheism, Mark S. Smith explains for the first time how Israel’s religion evolved from a cult of Yahweh as a primary deity among many to a fully defined religion with Yahweh as sole god.
Repudiating the traditional view that Israel was fundamentally different in culture and religion from its Canaanite neighbors, this provocative book argues that Israelite religion developed, at least in part, from the religion of Canaan. Looking at a wide range of sources, Smith cogently demonstrates that Israelite religion was not an outright rejection of foreign, pagan gods but, rather, was the result of the establishment of a distinctly separate Israelite identity that included the recognition of a singular, universal deity.
by Mark S. Smith
If you have read Smith’s “Early History of God” and been intrigued by his conception of the development of our notion of God during the Biblical period, “The Origins Of Monotheism” delivers a significantly more detailed analysis of the ancient Bronze Age texts from Ugarit and their influence on the culture of ancient Palestine in general, and Biblical texts in particular. Mr. Smith examines conceptions of the divine family and council of the gods, more general notions of ancient aspects of divinity, and the roles of various divinity. Especially insightful is his critique of James Frazier’s category of “dying and rising” gods in the Near East. In his analysis of Isaiah, he gives considerable background into Mesopotamian views on the divinity of statues of gods, whithout prejudice. There is a lot more than I can list here in this book, but if you’re interested in how the idea of one, all-powerful god came about, this is really essential reading.
by John Day
his masterly book is the climax of over twenty-five years of study of the impact of Canaanite religion and mythology on ancient Israel and the Old Testament. It is John Day’s magnum opus in which he sets forth all his main arguments and conclusions on the subject. The work considers in detail the relationship between Yahweh and the various gods and goddesses of Canaan, including the leading gods El and Baal, the great goddesses (Asherah, Astarte and Anat), astral deities (Sun, Moon and Lucifer), and underworld deities (Mot, Resheph, Molech and the Rephaim). Day assesses both what Yahwism assimilated from these deities and what it came to reject. More generally he discusses the impact of Canaanite polytheism on ancient Israel and how monotheism was eventually achieved.
Philip J. King and Lawrence E. Stager
This special-edition volume of the Library of Ancient Israel, based on the latest research, presents a vivid description of the world of Ancient Israel, covering such topics as domestic life, the means of existence, cultural expression, and religious practices. With over 175 full-color pictures and illustrations, Life in Biblical Israel opens the door to everyday life in biblical Israel for all readers. This volume is perfect for classrooms, coffee tables, and personal use.
Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah (A must read!)
by John Barton (Editor), Francesca Stavrakopoulou (Editor)
Understanding of the religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Israelites has changed considerably in recent years. It is now increasingly accepted that the biblical presentation of Israelite religion is often at odds with the historical realities of ancient Israel’s religious climate. As such, the diversity inherent to ancient Israelite religion is often overlooked—particularly within university lecture halls and classrooms. This textbook draws together specialists in the field to explain, illustrate and analyze this religious diversity. Following an introductory essay guiding the reader through the book, the collection falls into three sections.
The first focuses on conceptual diversities. It deconstructs common assumptions about Israelite religion and reconstructs Israelite perceptions of the nature of the religious world. The second section examines socio-religious diversities. It studies the varied social contexts of ancient Israelites, exploring the relationship between worshippers’ social locations and their perceptions and experiences of the divine. The third section deals with geographical diversities. It seeks to understand how geographical distinctions engender certain characteristics within Israelite religion and impact upon religious perceptions.
by Ziony Zevit
This is the most far-reaching interdisciplinary investigation into the religion of ancient Israel ever attempted. The author draws on textual readings, archaeological and historical data and epigraphy to determine what is known about the Israelite religions during the Iron Age (1200-586 BCE). The evidence is synthesized within the structure of an Israelite worldview and ethos involving kin, tribes, land, traditional ways and places of worship, and a national deity. Professor Zevit has originated this interpretive matrix through insights, ideas, and models developed in the academic study of religion and history within the context of the humanities. He is strikingly original, for instance, in his contention that much of the Psalter was composed in praise of deities other than Yahweh. Through his book, the author has set a precedent which should encourage dialogue and cooperative study between all ancient historians and archaeologists, but particularly between Iron Age archaeologists and biblical scholars. The work challenges many conclusions of previous scholarship about the nature of the Israelites’ religion.
by William G. Dever
Following up on his two recent, widely acclaimed studies of the history and social life of ancient Israel, William Dever here uses archaeological and biblical evidence to reconstruct the folk religion of ancient Israel. Did God Have a Wife? shines new light on the presence and influence of women’s cults in early Israel and their implications for our understanding of the official “religion of the book.” Dever pays particular attention to presences of the goddess Asherah, reviled by the authors of the Hebrew Bible as a foreign deity but considered by many modern scholars to have been popularly envisioned as the consort of biblical Yahweh.
Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (A must read!)
by William G. Dever
This book addresses one of the most timely and urgent topics in archaeology and biblical studies – the origins of early Israel. For centuries, the Western tradition has traced its beginnings back to ancient Israel, but recently some historians and archaeologists have questioned the reality of Israel as it is described in biblical literature. In “Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?”, William Dever explores the continuing controversies regarding the true nature of ancient Israel and presents the archaeological evidence for assessing the accuracy of the well-known Bible stories.
by Victor Harold Matthews
This collection of Middle Eastern texts, which are analogs to parts of the Old Testament, is comprehensive, arranged in order according to the canonical text that each in some way parallels, and supplemented by notes that point out specific points in common and identify where the Middle Eastern text was found. This volume is an important and convenient supplement to the study of Hebrew scriptures which puts those scriptures in context and enables the reader to discover what is and what is not distinctive in Hebrew scripture. Essential.
by James B. Pritchard
This anthology brought together the most important historical, legal, mythological, liturgical, and secular texts of the ancient Near East, with the purpose of providing a rich contextual base for understanding the people, cultures, and literature of the Old Testament. A scholar of religious thought and biblical archaeology, James Pritchard recruited the foremost linguists, historians, and archaeologists to select and translate the texts. The goal, in his words, was “a better understanding of the likenesses and differences which existed between Israel and the surrounding cultures.” Before the publication of these volumes, students of the Old Testament found themselves having to search out scattered books and journals in various languages. This anthology brought these invaluable documents together, in one place and in one language, thereby expanding the meaning and significance of the Bible for generations of students and readers. As one reviewer put it, “This great volume is one of the most notable to have appeared in the field of Old Testament scholarship this century.”
by Michael D. Coogan
In A Reader of Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Sources for the Study of the Old Testament, leading biblical scholar Michael D. Coogan presents a collection of texts that introduce students to the larger world surrounding the Old Testament. Dating from the third millennium BCE to the turn of the era, the readings have been carefully selected from the most accurate sources and arranged by genre and place of origin. They provide historical correlations to people and events mentioned in the Bible; parallels to biblical genres, motifs, institutions, and concepts; and windows into the lives of ordinary people. The texts are enhanced by chapter and reading introductions, extensive biblical references, and illustrations.
by Avigdor Shinan and Yair Zakovitch
The ancient Israelites believed things that the writers of the Bible wanted them to forget: myths and legends from a pre-biblical world that the new monotheist order needed to bury, hide, or reinterpret. Ancient Israel was rich in such literary traditions before the Bible reached the final form that we have today. These traditions were not lost but continued, passed down through the ages. Many managed to reach us in post-biblical sources: rabbinic literature, Jewish Hellenistic writings, the writings of the Dead Sea sect, the Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and other ancient translations of the Bible, and even outside the ancient Jewish world in Christian and Islamic texts. The Bible itself sometimes alludes to these traditions, often in surprising contexts.
Written in clear and accessible language, this volume presents thirty such traditions. It voyages behind the veil of the written Bible to reconstruct what was told and retold among the ancient Israelites, even if it is “not what the Bible tells us.”
by Tim Callahan
Callahan uses ancient history, linguistics, archaeology, mythology, numismatics to reveal that all major stories in the Bible have historical antecedents that can be traced to very non-divinely produced works by other cultures. A must-read for anyone wishing to understand the Bible.
by John H. Walton
Much of the Old Testament seems strange to contemporary readers. However, as we begin to understand how ancient people viewed the world, the Old Testament becomes more clearly a book that stands within its ancient context as it also speaks against it. John Walton provides here a thoughtful introduction to the conceptual world of the ancient Near East.
Walton surveys the literature of the ancient Near East and introduces the reader to a variety of beliefs about God, religion, and the world. In helpful sidebars, he provides examples of how such studies can bring insight to the interpretation of specific Old Testament passages. Students and pastors who want to deepen their understanding of the Old Testament will find this a helpful and instructive study.
by Ada Feyerick (Editor), Cyrus H. Gordon (Editor), Nahum M. Sarna (Editor)
An in-depth look at the civilizations that formed the background of the first book of the Bible. Drawing on the great archaeological discoveries in the Middle East over the past century, everyday life of the people of Genesis is viewed through their politics, arts, nomadic migrations, commerce, religion, and moral values.
With over 250 illustrations, including sixty-four color plates, this rich visual panorama describes what the authors of Genesis saw, and what events and ideas moved them to write the story of their people’s origins. The book includes fourteen maps and charts, a selected chronology, and a list of gods of the Middle East. Cyrus Gordon and Nahum Sarna, two of the most renowned scholars of ancient Near Eastern history and Bible, provide the text.
by Gary Greenberg
Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come (A must read!)
by Norman Cohn
In this engrossing book, the author of the classic work The Pursuit of the Millennium investigates the origins of apocalyptic faith – the belief in a perfect future, when the forces of good are victorious over the forces of evil. Norman Cohn takes us back two thousand years to the world views of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and India, the innovations of Iranian and Jewish prophets and sages, and the earliest Christian imaginings of heaven on earth, and he illuminates a major turning point in the history of human consciousness. For this second, corrected edition, the final chapter, on Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians, has been wholly rewritten and extended.
by Richard Heinberg
Explores the universal myth of Paradise across cultures, uncovering its personal message and social consequences.
Heinberg posits that “the memory of Paradise represents an innate and universal longing for a state of being that is natural and utterly fulfilling, but from whichwe have somehow excluded ourselves.” Drawing on ideas from Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade, he combines religion, literary criticism, anthropology, archaeology, and mythology into a New Age vision that makes the concept of Paradise meaningful in the modern world. Highly recommended for any library with New Age readers.
by Alan Segal
Arguing that in every religious tradition the afterlife represents the ultimate reward for the good, Segal combines historical and anthropological data with insights gleaned from religious and philosophical writings to explain the following mysteries: why the Egyptians insisted on an afterlife in heaven, while the body was embalmed in a tomb on earth; why the Babylonians viewed the dead as living in underground prisons; why the Hebrews remained silent about life after death during the period of the First Temple, yet embraced it in the Second Temple period (534 B.C.E. –70 C.E.); and why Christianity placed the afterlife in the center of its belief system. He discusses the inner dialogues and arguments within Judaism and Christianity, showing the underlying dynamic behind them, as well as the ideas that mark the differences between the two religions. In a thoughtful examination of the influence of biblical views of heaven and martyrdom on Islamic beliefs, he offers a fascinating perspective on the current troubling rise of Islamic fundamentalism.
by J. Edward Wright
Seeking to discover the roots of these familiar notions, this volume traces the backgrounds, origin, and development of early Jewish and Christian speculation about the heavenly realm — where it is, what it looks like, and who its inhabitants are. Wright begins his study with an examination of the beliefs of ancient Israel’s neighbors Egypt and Mesopotamia, reconstructing the intellectual context in which the earliest biblical images of heaven arose. A detailed analysis of the Hebrew biblical texts themselves then reveals that the Israelites were deeply influenced by images drawn from the surrounding cultures. Wright goes on to examine Persian and Greco-Roman beliefs, thus setting the stage for his consideration of early Jewish and Christian images, which he shows to have been formed in the struggle to integrate traditional biblical imagery with the newer Hellenistic ideas about the cosmos. In a final chapter Wright offers a brief survey of how later Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions envisioned the heavenly realms. Accessible to a wide range of readers, this provocative book will interest anyone who is curious about the origins of this extraordinarily pervasive and influential idea.
by Alice K. Turner
In an arresting journey through the netherworld, Playboy fiction editor Turner explores the landscape and dynamics of Hell as envisioned by writers, artists, theologians and thinkers from Plato and Augustine to Milton, Calvin, Byron and T. S. Eliot. Starting with the worlds of the dead of the Sumerians, Egyptians, Zoroastrians, Greeks, Romans and Jews, Turner moves on to the sketchy biblical basis for Christian Hell and its increasing importance in thinking about the afterlife. After the fact of Hell was settled, it was up to writers like Bede, Gregory the Great and most of all Dante to give the graphic descriptions of an infernal region where the wicked endure torments. Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire poured cold water on the idea of Hell, yet, as Turner shows, Hell, far from disappearing in the 20th century, has been one of its central metaphors. Scores of intriguing black-and-white plates reveal how Bosch, Giotto, William Blake, Michelangelo, Rodin and others have shaped popular images of the underworld.
The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth (A must read!)
by Neil Forsyth
Making use of the functional analysis of folktales developed by Vladimir Propp, Forsyth, an expert on Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, shows us how the modern and theologically vital character of Satan evolved from the ancient “combat myth” in which a hero, seeking glory or justice, sets out to defeat a menacing foe. Examining variants of this tradition from ancient Babylon, Canaan, Greece, and other places, Forsyth shows how the biblical character of Satan (still “the” Satan in the Old Testament–the accuser who had a respectable job on the divine council of Yahweh) gradually came, for theological reasons, to conform to the combat myth as a way of accounting for evil and sin in the world.
In a closely reasoned, step-by-step argument, Forsyth shows how Satan evolved from employee of Yahweh to leader of the angels lustfully tempted by women to resentful rebel against God to cosmic antagonist seemingly rivaling God in power.
by Jeffrey Burton Russell
This is a wonderful book that shows how the Christian conception of the Devil can be traced to previous cultures through myths, symbols, and philosophy. The book starts will the definition and how the word has been interrupted through various cultures, including current Jung psychology which Russell favors. The book then progresses through how east and western cultures view the idea of evil. Summerian, Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Cannanite, Hiittie, Zoroastrianism, Mazdaism, Greek, and Roman mythology and cultures are used for comparison. The book ends with Hebrew personification and the Devil in the New Testament. Many references are mentioned regarding the Inquisition, which Russell picks up in the next book of this series.
Christian readers will probably be offended by Russell’s conclusions, because he indirectly shows that ideas presented in the Bible have been presented in other cultures pre-dating Christianity. This historical approach is taken by other authors, but may jar Christians who have not been subjective to this line of thinking. This is my guess why this book has received bad reviews here at Amazon, but receives great reviews on history book lists. Granted that some of Russell’s conclusions are subjective, but the history is solid and that is why it’s a standard work.
by Wendy Cotter C.S.J
Miracles in Greco-Roman Antiquity presents a collection in translation of miracle stories from the ancient world. The material is divided up into four main categories including healing, exorcism, nature and raising the dead.
Wendy Cotter, in an introduction and notes to the selections, contextualizes the miracles within the background of the Greco-Roman world and also compares the stories to other Jewish and non-Jewish miracle stories of the Mediterranean world. This sourcebook provides an interdisciplinary collection of material which will be of value to students of the New Testament.
In this compelling study of the birth and infancy of Jesus, Robert Miller separates fact from fiction in the gospel narratives and relates them to stories about the miraculous births of Israelite heroes and of Greek and Roman sons of God. “Born Divine analyzes the Christian claim that the birth and childhood of Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. The historical and theological dimensions of the virgin birth tradition are discussed with honesty and insight. This wide-ranging book also presents additional infancy gospels from the second century through the Middle Ages.