Jesus imagesThe first class I ever signed up for in seminary was actually the result of a fluke (which means that I didn’t know how to use the online registration, so I just picked something that seemed interesting, and signed up).  The class was called “Theological Understandings of Jesus” by Dr. Mark Baker. It was an elective. As an aside, since mine is a M.A. in New Testament, I propose that it should be required! Get it? Jesus? New Testament? Anyway — the class centered on Jesus in two important ways:

  1. Understanding who (and what) Jesus is with particular emphasis on how to understand (or at least think more carefully about) the hypostatic union, and
  2. The saving significance of the death of Jesus on the cross (e.g., the atonement and various atonement theories).

I wanted to be a good student, so I began reading the primary texts for the class, but I thought I’d go through my own library and pull out all my “Jesus” books and set them aside for close access once the class began.  

In my pastoral office at the time, I had about 800 books on the shelves surrounding my desk. I stood there staring at the shelves for about 10 minutes in stunned silence as I saw a shelf of Bibles (whew) a bunch of commentaries, and shelf after shelf of every topic you could imagine (Church administration, leadership, preaching, small groups, fasting, prayer, spiritual warfare, systematic theology, the Holy Spirit’s gifts, Apologetics, Cults, devotionals, language helps, biblical encyclopedias and dictionaries, Christian classics, sermon helps.  You name it!).  

In all of my library I was only able to find three books that were completely about Jesus (though many of my books had sections about Jesus in them).  I was shocked! There I stood in front of 3 walls of books and only three of them were wholly devoted to the son of God.  Pause and think about that. Scan through your own bookshelves. I know you have a Bible, but how many “Jesus books” do you have? Take a minute to count them. Have you read them?

I went home that day and shared all this with my wife, and I actually got pretty emotional about it.  It’s hard to capture in writing the shock that I felt, but it was real.  I decided to do something about it.  I started looking for Jesus books, and if I found one that seemed helpful, I added it to my collection.

I also started an “atonement” library (emphasizing the cross of Jesus) but that is the subject for another post.

Below you will find a list of forty Jesus books that I suggest you get.  Pick five and start with those, then begin building your collection.  If you have some that you feel I should add to mine, please list them in the comments section below.

1. A Hitchhikers Guide to Jesus Bruce Fisk
2. Are you the one who is to come? Michael F. Bird
3. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels Joel Green / Scot McKnight
4. Familiar Stranger Michael McClymond
5. Following Jesus, The Servant King Jonathan Lunde
6. How God Became King N.T. Wright
7. Jesus – A 21st Century Biography Paul Johnson
8. Jesus According to Scripture Darrell Bock
9. Jesus Among Friends and Enemies Chris Keith & Larry Hurtado
10. Jesus and His World Peter Walker
11. Jesus and the God of Israel Richard Baukham
12. Jesus and the Gospels Craig Blomberg
13. Jesus and the Victory of God N.T. Wright
14. Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective Fred Sanders
15. Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not Scot McKnight
16. Jesus The Christ Michael Bird
17. Jesus The Temple Nicholas Perrin
18. Jesus Through Middle Easter Eyes Kenneth Bailey
19. Jesus Under Fire Michael J. Wilkins / J.P. Moreland
20. Jesus, The Man who Lives Malcolm Muggeridge
21. Jesus: Engaging Theology/Cathoic Perspectives Gerard Sloyan
22. Knowing Jesus James Alison
23. Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament Christopher J. Wright
24. Pauline Christology Gordon Fee
25. Recovering Jesus: The Witness of the New Testament Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld
26. Simply Jesus N.T. Wright
27. The Challenge of Jesus N.T. Wright
28. The Everlasting Man G.K. Chesterton
29. The Historical Jesus of the Gospels Craig Keener
30. The Historical Jesus, Five Views James K. Beilby
31. The Jesus I Never Knew Phillip Yancey
32. The Real Jesus Luke T. Johnson
33. The Resurrection of the Son of God N.T. Wright
34. The World of Jesus William Marty
35. The World of Jesus and the Early Church Craig Evans
36. To Know Christ Jesus Frank Sheed
37. Understanding Jesus Joe Amaral
38. Who is Christ for Us Dietrich Bonhoeffer
39. Who Was Jesus? N.T. Wright
40. Words and Works of Jesus Christ J. Dwight Pentecost

Okay – Add your own to the list in the comments below.  Also, if you have a favorite on my list, share what you like about it and how it has helped to to know and love Jesus more.

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Update: Check out Thomas Creedy’s list here (some duplication, but lots of great ones NOT on my list).