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Five Books/Scholars that Shaped My Reading of the Bible

28th July 2009

I have been tagged in the popular  “Five Books” meme and since I want to return to blogging more regularly, I figured I would add my five to the growing list of biblical studies blogs that have responded to the meme. The original question posed over at the C. Orthodoxy blog was, “Name the five books (or scholars) that had the most immediate and lasting influence on how you read the Bible.”

1. Since the focus of the meme is on “how you read the Bible”, i.e., hermeneutics, my first book is Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Truth and Method (Continuum, 2005;  buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com).  More than any other scholar, Gadamer’s hermeneutical model has shaped the way I read the Bible (and everything else for that matter).  Another scholar who has been influential in this regard is Anthony Thiselton.

2. Learning to read the Bible in its original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) has naturally had a lasting influence on how I read it. Thus, the second scholar I list is Bruce Waltke. As his student and teaching assistant, my understanding of Biblical Hebrew benefited immensely, if I didn’t always share some of his theological perspectives. His (and M. O’Connor’s) An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Eisenbrauns, 1990; Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), remains within arm’s reach whenever I am trying to understand a matter of Hebrew syntax.

3. Reading the Bible for me entails dealing with ancient texts and translations. For that reason Emanuel Tov is my third choice.  Whether its in the area of textual criticism (see his Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible [Fortress, 2001; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com]), Septuagint studies (see my LXX pages), or (of course!) Dead Sea Scrolls (where can I start? see my Dead Sea Scrolls section of Codex), Tov has influenced my understanding of the history and development of the biblical text like few others (one other I should mention is naturally my dissertation supervisor Al Pietersma!).

4. Why do I read the Bible? I do not read it only because of its considerable influence on Western civilization, nor only because I have to prepare lecture notes or sermons ostensibly based on it! Nor do I only read it because I find it fascinating and compelling. The reason I first started reading the Bible when I was 18 was because I believed the God spoke in and through it and at that time in my life I desperately needed a word from God! That conviction remains perhaps the primary reason why I read the Bible.  A biblical scholar whose ideas  helped me in and through graduate studies is Brevard S. Childs. Whether his Introduction to Old Testament as Scripture (Fortress, 1997; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) or his Biblical Theology of Old and New Testaments (Fortress, 1992; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), his “canonical approach” helped me appreciate the value (and the limitations) of the various higher and lower criticisms and provided me with a way to read the Christian Bible (both Old and New Testaments)  faithfully as a biblical scholar.

5. Finally, since, as I mentioned above,  I am not just interested in reading the Bible for academic or antiquarian reasons, but because I believe it is God’s word to the church, my last scholar is Karl Barth. While I do not claim to have digested all of Barth’s works (perhaps just a few crumbs from his table), I don’t think there are (m)any theologians who interact with the biblical texts to the extent he does. From his ground-breaking Commentary on Romans (Oxford, 1968; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) to his voluminous Church Dogmatics (Continuum, 2009; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), Barth modeled a way of reading Scripture that remained focused on the Triune God.

There are many others I could list, scholars like Herman Gunkel, Robert Lowth, Gerhard von Rad, Phyllis Trible, Walter Brueggemann, Sara Japhet, John Goldingay, George Eldon Ladd, Raymond Brown, N.T. Wright, Kenton Sparks, but I won’t.

So that is my list! I won’t bother tagging anyone since I don’t want to spend the time to figure out who hasn’t been tagged yet!

I am curious what books or scholars have been influential in shaping the way you, my readers, read the Bible.


4 Responses to “Five Books/Scholars that Shaped My Reading of the Bible”

  1. Bob MacDonald Says:

    I have recently read Susannah Ticciati on Job and the Disruption of Identity – if you like Barth, I think you would like her book. No one in the Biblioblogging world appears to have heard of her though her brother Robin is famous for being the youngest conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

  2. Mike Koke Says:

    Good list Tyler. I still remember the fun times debating about Childs and Gadamer in your biblical theology class – definitely one of my favourite classes.

  3. Ken Says:

    You forgot me!! :-)

  4. So Many Books, So Little Time « C. Orthodoxy Says:

    [...] Williams at Codex: Hans-Georg Gadamer, Bruce Waltke, Emanuel Tov, Brevard S. Childs, Karl Barth (plus Herman Gunkel, [...]