In the spirit of camaraderie, I am chiming in with a must-have book list for pastors. Able & Robby have listed a few of their preferred titles, and I can learn a lot about their values and even their spiritual gifts as I read their lists.
We tend to read and value things that help us with the things God has called us to do. Thus, my list will be a bit different. It’s called a book list for pastors, but in my case it’s a book list for Pastors who believe that they have a particular calling to teach Scripture. It is also a list for pastors who may not have much (or any) seminary training, but who need the insight that such training could provide for them if they believe they’ll be teaching the Bible regularly.
And so — here goes. It’s a top-ten book list for those who aspire to be teaching-pastors who will spend a good amount of time working through texts with those under their spiritual care.
1. The Complete Word Study New Testament – Spiros Zodhiates:
2. The Complete Word Study Old Testament – Spiros Zodhiates:
These are part of a larger five-volume collection, but you absolutely must have the first two. Whether you have studied biblical languages or not, you should have this collection in your biblical studies library. It’s easy to use, and will dramatically expand your understanding of scripture in its original language.
3. Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures – John Peter Lange. I used this commentary series every week when I was teaching through whole books of the Bible. Each section of the commentary contains important insights into the world and background of the text (contextual), the words of the text in their proper background (exegetical), insights into the implications of the text for doctrine (doctrinal), and help for the preacher who is going to work through the text in a sermon (homiletical & practical). The nice thing about this commentary series is that you can buy each volume in it for $1.99 each on your Kindle (there are 9, but since I don’t want to be done, I’ll count this 9-volume resource as one resource. Because I can. It’s my post. What?).
4. How to read the Bible for all its Worth – Gordon Fee. Stop. Do. Not. Teach. another verse of scripture, dear pastor-friend, until you have read this book through from cover to cover and had at least one week (after reading it) to unpack it intensely. And if you’re not a teaching pastor, then read it, dear Christian friend, so that you can learn what the Bible actually is from this point forward. Fee’s book has done a great deal to clean up a lot of messes that are constantly created and perpetuated by Christians who have a Bible, but who don’t actually know how the Bible functions as the word of God. And while you’re on a two-week reading break, be sure the person who preaches in your place has read this book first.
5. How to read the Bible book-by-book – Gordon Fee. After your reading break with the last book, take two more weeks to read and un-pack this book. Then, when you get back to teaching the Bible book-by-book (as you should be doing), you will have a more solid foundation upon which to build a consistent, theologically, biblically, and practically rich diet for your congregation. The Bible is not a cool quote book from which we get nuggets for our sermons. If you aspire to be a Bible teacher, you simply are not allowed to teach even one more verse until you have read these two books. We’ll be watching!
6. Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible – David & Pat Alexander. An incredible resource for Bible students, teachers, and interpreters who want to look at every book of the Bible, or any particular book of the Bible. It’s simply a must-have.
7. Biblical Theology Old and New Testaments – Gerhardus Vos. Read the Bible with the whole biblical story in mind. Vos will take you on an important and imperative journey through the discipline of Biblical theology. Then, when you’re teaching a text — any text — you will be able to locate that text within the larger and longer Biblical narrative. A must-have, and must-read.
8. Christian Theology – An Introduction – Alister McGrath. Follow the development of Christian thought and Christian theology over the course of time, through the lives of some of Church history’s greatest thinkers and voices, and along the lines of the big theological ideas that have shaped Christian doctrine. If you’re going to converse about biblical, historical, confessional, doctrinal, systematic, traditional (etc.) theology, this is an important starting place. You simply have to buy it and start reading it. So. Go ahead and begin.
9. A Theology of the New Testament– George Eldon Ladd. Learn the theology of the New Testament in light of the larger message of the entire Bible through the discipline of Biblical Theology.
10. The Gospel of the Kingdom – George Eldon Ladd. What is the message of Jesus? What is the message of the Church? What is the message, for that matter, of the entire Bible? Ladd Believes (and I agree) that it is a message about a King and a Kingdom. It is a message about the creation of the world, what has happened to it, and who gets to be in charge of it forever. If you’re going to preach any text of the Bible, you’ll need to keep it fixed firmly in its larger narrative context. This book, like few others, will help you to do that.
Obviously there are zillions more books than these, and so much more ground to cover (like my list of 40 great Jesus books), but these books have been incredibly helpful to me personally as I have sought to become a careful teacher, and as I have sought to personally understand scripture in multi-faceted ways.
Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below, or to share how any of these books have helped you personally.