New Testament Must-Reads

The book recommendations list below is here for the benefit of the more scholarly among us.  The list contains all the books that we consider necessary for a scholarly understanding of each of the subjects.  These should only be read by the discerning reader and many run contrary to evangelical positions.  These are not for beginning study.


Historical Backgrounds

F. F. Bruce, New Testament History (New York: Doubleday, 1972). Widely regarded as the finest book of its type. [BS/2407/.B69/1972]

W. D. Davies and L. Finkelstein (eds.), The Cambridge History of Judaism (4 vols.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984- ). Beginning with the Persian period, this major project covers all relevant topics. [BM/155.2/.C35]

E. Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993). Among one-volume works, this is the most wide-ranging. [BR/129/.F47/1993]

L. L. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian (2 vols.; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992). The most up-to-date treatment, with very extensive bibliography; it pays special attention to the weaknesses in standard works. [DS/121.65/.G68/1992)]

H. Koester, New Testament Introduction (2 vols.; Philadelphia: Fortress and New York: de Gruyter, 1982). The first volume is an impressive synthesis of the Hellenistic background to the NT; cf. WTJ 47 (1985) 114-17.  Vol. 2 is special introduction (see below).  [BS/2410/.K613/1982]

E. Lohse, The New Testament Environment (Nashville: Abingdon, 1976). Possibly the clearest brief introduction to this subject. [LF.1/L834a]

N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992).  Especially Part III: "First Century Judaism within the Greco-Roman World," is a good introduction to the general context within which Christianity developed, from a moderate "new perspective" standpoint. [BS/2398/.W75/1992]


Collins, John J., ed. The Origins of Apocalypticism in Judaism and Christianity. Vol. 1 of The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism (New York: Continuum, 1998). Good introduction to recent study of the genre. [BL/501/.E53/1998/v.1]

M. McNamara, Palestinian Judaism and the New Testament (Good News Studies 4; Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1983). Very useful survey of current research on all the major groups of documents except for the Apocrypha. [BM/535/.M36/1983]

G. F. Moore, Judaism in the First Three Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of the Tannaim (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1927-30). A classic exposition, but outdated in some important respects. [BM/177/.M6]

J. Neusner, From Politics to Piety: The Emergence of Pharisaic Judaism (Englewood-Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973). A clear statement of the author's critical approach to first-century Judaism. [ET/N398c]

------------, Judaism When Christianity Began: A Survey of Belief and Practice (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2002).  Brief and approachable introduction to the "theology" of first-century Judaism from a critical Jewish perspective. [BM177 .N4755 2002] 

G. W. E. Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah: An Historical and Literary Introduction (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981). The best brief survey of the apocryphal and pseudepigraphic materials, including documents from Qumran. [BS/1700/.N48]

S. Safrai (ed.), The Literature of the Sages (Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum 2/3; 2 prts; Assen: Van Gorcum; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987- ). Cf. WTJ 50 (1988) 192-95.

E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE -- 66 CE (London: SCM; Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1992). Somewhat idiosyncratic but important and thought-provoking, taking point of departure from his earlier bombshell, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977).  Much recent Pauline scholarship has interacted with Sanders. [BM/176/.S257/1992].

E. Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (3 vols.; ed. G. Vermes and F. Millar; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1973-87). First published in the late 1800s and now fully revised, this work must be regarded as the most comprehensive and authoritative in its field, though recent study since Sanders (see above) has called much of Schürer's work into question. [DS/122/.S422/1973]

M. Stone (ed.), Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period: Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran, Sectarian Writings, Philo, Josephus (Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum 2/2; Assen: Van Gorcum; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984). More thorough than Nickelsburg, but still readable. [BM/485/.L57]

E. E. Urbach, The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs (2d ed.; 2 vols.; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1979). A magisterial synthesis of rabbinic theology. [BM/504.3/.U713/1979]
J. C. VanderKam, The Dead Sea Scrolls Today (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994). A superb, concise introduction. [BM/487/.V26/1994])

---------------------,  An Introduction to Early Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001).  A good but brief introduction; it will need to be supplemented by other readings. [DS/121.65/.V36/2001])


E. Bréhier, The Hellenistic and Roman Age (The History of Philosophy; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965; orig. 1931). This is only one example of several useful descriptions of philosophical thought in NT times. [B/172/.B7413]

J. Ferguson, The Religions of the Roman Empire (New York: Cornell University Press, 1970). Interesting and clear survey of all significant religious movements around A.D. 200. [BL/802/.F45/1970]

R. MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981). Reexamines the historical evidence and questions widely held assumptions. [BL/802/.M32]

K. Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983). The standard work. [BT/1390/.R7713]


A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East: The New Testament Illustrated by Recently Discovered Texts of the Graeco-Roman World (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978, orig. 1927). This influential work is not restricted to the subject of language. [BS/2375/.D4513/1978]

G. H. R. Horsley, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, vol. 5 (N.S.W.: Macquarrie University, 1990). This major contribution includes a substantive critique of modern NT Greek scholarship.

J. H. Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol. 1 (3d ed.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1908). A classic description of the Koine in the light of the papyrological discoveries. [Ref./PA/813/M7]

S. E. Porter, ed., The Language of the New Testament: Classic Essays (JSNTSup 60, Sheffield: JSOT, 1991) 205-26. An important collection of articles, most of which address the question of the Semitic character of NT Greek; especially significant are the essays by Deissmann and Moulton. [PA/8101/.P67/1991]

M. Silva, "Bilingualism and the Character of Palestinian Greek," Bib 61 (1980) 198-219, for an analysis of the Deissmann-Turner debate; cf. also Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), chap. 3. [BS/537/.S54/1983]

J. W. Voelz, "The Language of the New Testament," in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt. Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung II/25/2 (Berlin/NY: Walter de Gruyter, 1984) 893-977; cf. also M. Wilcox, "Semitisms in the New Testament," 978-1027. [DG/270/.P74]

Textual Criticism

K. and B. Aland, The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism (2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989). The most up-to-date and complete introduction; cf. WTJ 50 (1988) 195-200. [BS/2325/.A4213/1987]

E. C. Colwell, Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1969). Several of the articles in this volume are foundational. [FF/C727c]

B. M. Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977). Though geared primarily for text-critical study, it addresses questions of canon and translation. [BS/2315/.M43]

–—————, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (3d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). Still the standard text. [BS/2325/.M4]

W. N. Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1977). A defense of the Majority Text. [BS/2325/.P52]

Harry A. Sturz, The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984). More moderate and valuable than Pickering; cf. WTJ 48 (1986) 187-90. [BS/2555.2/.S78/1984]

L. Vaganay, An Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). An important alternate perspective to that of Aland, particularly with reference to the Western Text. [BS/2325/.V3213]


F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: IVP, 1988).  Introduction to the history of the development of the concept and content of the canon of both OT and NT. [BS/465/.B78/ 1988]

H. von Campenhausen, The Formation of the Christian Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972). This is a highly regarded work that builds on Harnack's classic liberal treatment. [BS/465/.C313/1972]

R. B. Gaffin, Jr., "The New Testament as Canon," pp. 165-83 in H. M. Conn (ed.), Inerrancy and Hermeneutic: A Tradition, A Challenge, A Debate (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988). An important formulation of the essential theological questions. [BS/400/.I4234/1988]

A. von Harnack, The Origin of the New Testament and the Most Important Consequences of the New Creation (New York: Macmillan, 1925). [BS/2315/.M313/1925]

B. M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987). [BS/2320/.M47/1987]

H. Ridderbos, Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1988). A distinctly Reformed approach to the question of the canon. [BS/2320/.R513/1988])

J. H. Roberts and A. B. du Toit, Guide to the New Testament, vol. 1 (Pretoria: N. G. Kerkboekhandel, 1979). The second part surveys the history of the canon and discusses the theological issues. [BS/2330.2/R623]

N. B. Stonehouse, "The Authority of the New Testament," pp. 88-136 in The Infallible Word (3d rev. printing; Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1967). [BS/480/.W48/1967]

B. F. Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980, repr. of 6th ed., orig. 1889). The most thorough history in English. [BS/2320/.W47/1980]


P. R. Ackroyd et al. (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Bible (3 vols.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963-70). Exceptionally good articles on all related subjects, including text and canon. [CM/144]

F. F. Bruce, The English Bible: A History of Translations from the Earliest English Versions to the New English Bible (rev. ed.; New York: Oxford University Press, 1970). A standard and readable work. [CM/B83b]

J. H. Skilton (ed.), The New Testament Student and Bible Translation (The New Testament Student 4; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1978). [BS/2395/.N54/v.4]



R. F. Collins, Introduction to the New Testament (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983). A successful textbook, especially valuable for a discussion of the most recent developments. [BS/2331/.C64/1983]

J. D. G. Dunn, The Partings of the Ways between Christianity and Judaism and Their Significance for the Character of Christianity (London: SCM, and Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1991). A provocative synthesis of current issues. [BR/195/.J8/D86/1991]

The New Testament and its Modern Interpreters (E.J. Epp & G.W. MacRae, eds.; Philadelphia: Fortress; Atlanta: Scholars, 1989).  A general survey of the recent state of affairs in each area of NT studies.  Articles on background, methodology, and interpretation. [?]

D. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1971). The standard evangelical work. [BS/2330.2/.G8/1970]

H. Koester, Introduction (see above), vol. 2. Represents the left-wing in special introduction.  Very little of the NT is seen as having anything to do with the people who had direct contact with Jesus.

W. G. Kümmel, Introduction to the New Testament (3d ed.; Nashville: Abingdon, 1975). The standard higher-critical reference work. [FD/F327L]

——————, The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of Its Problems (Nashville: Abingdon, 1972). An indispensable work, with numerous lengthy quotations from the most significant figures. [BS/2350/.K813]

D.G. Meade, Pseudonymity and Canon: An Investigation into the relationship of Authorship and Authority in Jewish and Earliest Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986).  A defense of pseudepigrapha as an accepted biblical genre.  Cf. WTJ 51/1 (1989) 167-71. [BS/519/.M43]

S. Neill and T. Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861-1986 (2d ed.; London: Oxford University Press, 1988). A good complement to Kümmel. [BS/2350/.N4]
A. Wikenhauser, New Testament Introduction (New York: Herder & Herder, 1958). The standard Roman Catholic critical introduction. [BS/2330/.W463/1958a]


K. Bailey, “Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels,” Asia Journal of Theology 5:1 (1991) 34-54.  Points the way to a refinement of the new direction in oral tradition approaches.

A. J. Bellinzoni, Jr. (ed.), The Two-Source Hypothesis: A Critical Appraisal (n.p.: Mercer University Press, 1985). A most useful anthology of writings for and against this hypothesis. [BS/2555.2/.T86/1985]

R. Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition (New York: Harper & Row, 1963, orig. 1921). The classic application of the form-critical approach to the Gospels proposed by Dibelius. [BS/2555/.B7233/1963]

M. Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, (New York: Scribners, 1965 [orig. 1935]).  An analysis of the oral stage of development of the gospel tradition in terms of forms or types of gospel story. [BS/2555/.D52/1965]

J. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Christianity in the Making, Vol. 1; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).  A compre-hensive survey of the scholarly study of the origins of the Gospels, along with a fascinating theory regarding the oral transmission of the Jesus tradition. [BT/203/.D86/2003]

A. B. du Toit (ed.), Guide to the New Testament, vol. 4 (Pretoria: N. G. Kerkboekhandel, 1983). Substantive, up-to-date treatments. [BS/2548/.S5613]

B. Gerhardssohn, Memory and Manuscript: Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity (Lund: Gleerup; Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1961).  Argues that Jesus’ disciples, like those of the rabbis, took notes, and that extensive memorization of Jesus’ words took place in the early church.   

B. Reicke, The Roots of the Synoptic Gospels, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986).  Deals with development of Synoptics using insights from source, form, and redaction criticism.  Builds on Gerhardssohn. [BS2555.2.R39/1986]

J. Rohde, Rediscovering the Teaching of the Evangelists (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968). Reviews important contributions in the field of redaction criticism. [BS/2555.2/.R5813/1968b]

H.-H. Stoldt, History and Criticism of the Marcan Hypothesis (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1980). An attack on the two-source theory. [BS/2585.2/.S7613]

B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins (London: Macmillan, 1930). A foundational work in the areas of textual criticism, the synoptic problem, and the Gospel of John. [FD.32/St833]


F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977). Successfully combines introductory, historical, and theological issues. [BS/2506/.B755]
A. B. du Toit (ed.), Guide to the New Testament, vol. 5 (Pretoria: N. G. Kerkboekhandel, 1985). [BS/2650.2/P384413/1985]

B. Rigaux, The Letters of St. Paul: Modern Studies (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1968). A highly respected critical survey. [FD.34/R448]



R. Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (2 vols.; New York: Scribner, 1951). A classic work arising from the history-of-religions school and heavily influenced by modern existentialism. [BS/2397/.B813]

O. Cullmann, Salvation in History (New York: Harper & Row, 1967). This influential volume represents a critical alternative to Bultmann's approach. [BR/115/.H5/C83/1967b]

  —————, Christology of the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959).  First class biblical theology. [BT 198/.C813/1959]

—————, Christ and Time (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1950).  A response to the negative theology of Bultmann.  The NT writers see Christ as the centerpoint in time. [BT78/.C83]
J. D. G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977). An important and controversial contribution. [BS/2397/.D85]

G. F. Hasel, New Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978). Clearly summarizes the state of scholarship through the 1970's. [BS/2397/.H34]

L. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).  Picking up from his earlier work One God, One Lord, Hurtado here surveys the development of christological formulation in the NT and other early Christian literature [BT/198/.H87/2003]

G. E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974). The most widely used evangelical synthesis.  Somewhat dated but still helpful. [BS/2397/.L33]

L. Goppelt, Theology of the New Testament (2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981-82). Probably the finest exposition from a "mainline" Continental approach. [BS/2397/.G6313]
H. Räisänen, Beyond New Testament Theology: A Story and a Programme (London: SCM; and Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990). A provocative critique of the history of research. [BS/2397/.R35/1990]

J. H. Skilton, ed., The New Testament Student and Theology (NT Student 3; Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976). See especially the articles by R. B. Gaffin, Jr., and John Murray on the relationship between systematic and biblical theology. [BS/2395/.N54]

G. Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948). An original and important Reformed contribution. [BS/511/.V6]


G. M. Burge, The Anointed Community: The Holy Spirit in the Johannine Tradition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987). This recent evangelical monograph serves to introduce the major issues in the theology of the Gospel of John; cf. WTJ 50 (1988) 355-57. [BS/2601/.B87/1987]

H. Conzelmann, The Theology of Luke (New York: Harper, 1961).  A classic redactional study of Luke, which sees Luke's redemptive-historical theology as a response to the continued delay of the parousia. [BS2589/.C6513/1961]

C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). A magisterial work defending John as a source of reliable tradition. [BS/2615.2/.D644/1953]

J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Christianity in the Making, vol. 1; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).  A critical effort to discover the life and teaching of Jesus by examining the various strands of reaction to it by early Christians. [BT/283/.D86/2003]

J. Jeremias, New Testament Theology. Vol. 1: The Proclamation of Jesus (New York: Scribner, 1971). Building on the author's research into first-century Judaism, this volume stresses the historicity of the Synoptic Gospels vis-B-vis the Bultmannian approach. [BT/306/.J4513]

H. Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1962). A penetrating and Reformed exposition of Jesus' teaching according to the Synoptic Gospels. [BT/94/.R413]

N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996).  Historical study setting forth a novel interpretation of the teaching of Jesus from a moderately conservative position. [BS/2398/.W75/1992,v.2]


J. C. Beker, Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980). An influential interpretation stressing the apocalyptic background. [BS/2651/.B44]

J. D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998).  Comprehensive but idiosyncratic presentation from the point of view of the "new perspective." [BS/2651/.D86/1998]

H. Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975). In spite of the title, this is a monumental and creative synthesis. [BS/2651/.R513]

H. J. Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961). Study of Paul by a Jewish scholar who advances Montefiore's position that Paul was reacting to Hellenistic Judaism, as opposed to Palestinian. [BS/2655/.J4/S323]

F. Thielman, Paul and the Law: A Contextual Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1994).   Good introduction to the vexing questions regarding Paul's understanding of the law vis-a-vis Judaism in general. [BS/2655/.L35/T46]

G. Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930). A powerful reexamination of the central aspects of Paul's teaching. [BS/2655/.E7/V6]

S. Westerholm, Israel's Law and the Church's Faith: Paul and His Recent Interpreters (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988). This superb history of research criticizes Sanders (below) and seeks to rehabilitate Luther's interpretation; cf. WTJ 51 (1989) 174-77. [BS/2655/.F2/W44/1988]

E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (London: SCM, 1977).  Now virtually a classic, it recasts the picture of 1st Century Judaism and challenges the traditional understanding of Paul’s opposition to Judaizers. [BM177/.S2/1977]

N. T. Wright, Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology.  (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1991). [BS/2665/.C74]