r m p

Classics of Criticism,
Or the
Higher-Critical Hit Parade


Recommended Reading List 

Lord, send the old-time critics,
The Pentateuchal critics,
That redactors be discovered,
And sour-ces identified!

(“Pentateuchal Critics” by Robert M. Price,
be sung to the tune of “Pentecostal Power”)


Once, many years ago, I was in a classroom at Drew University and a pal, Joe Iwudzie, turned around in amazement at all the authors and titles the professor was slinging around. He exclaimed, “What do you read?” My answer was not designed to comfort him: “Everything!” Indeed I had been engaged upon that policy for many years already, and I found it served me in good stead. Before I was out of high school I was reading apologetics, then early Christian literature, various Bible translations, etc. I was omnivorous. I understood I would have to familiarize myself with the important authors in the fields that interested me, Bible and Theology, as well as adjacent studies, and the number of these only grew as the years went by, eventually including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, literary criticism, Deconstruction, and so on. I quickly came to see that I could not rely on second-hand summaries of what the giants had supposedly said, since such summaries are often subtly slanted to make it easier for the scholar describing them to refute them in favor of his own new theory. I am often asked for reading lists, and this one will prove, I fear, overkill. And it does not even cover all the areas I just mentioned. But it ought to get you started. And if you decide you want to read this or that book now, just click on the link, and it will take you to Amazon.com.

Note: Many of the links to Amazon.com are for used copies being sold by third-parties (particularly where a title is out of print) and therefore may become unavailable at any time. If our link is invalid, try a new search.

*Highly Recommended


Old Testament

Source Criticism


James Robertson Smith
, The Old Testament in the Jewish Church - Twelve Lectures on Biblical Criticism

These are the great founding fathers of the Higher Criticism of the Old Testament. They concentrated on documentary sources underlying our biblical books, especially the Pentateuch. The result is the classic JEDP framework, unassailable even today, despite the “bugs-on-the-windshield” attempts of some young whippersnappers to overturn it. It just makes too much sense. (Anything you can find by Heinrich Ewald, Abraham Kuenen, and Bishop Colenso is well worth reading, too.)




Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament, an Introduction
Who wrote what? Why? Are individual OT writings compilations? How do major themes evolve? Fosdick, though a bit outdated both critically and theologically, still strikes me as enormously comprehensive and compelling. Eissfeldt is all detail, more than you might want, but then that’s just what you need.

The Pentateuch

*Hermann Gunkel, Genesis (Mercer Library of Biblical Studies)

Gerhard von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary (Old Testament Library)

Martin Noth, Exodus: A Commentary (Westminster Old Testament Library)

Martin Noth, Leviticus: A Commentary (Westminster Old Testament Library)

Martin Noth, Numbers: A Commentary (Old Testament Library)

Gerhard von Rad, Deuteronomy: A Commentary (Old Testament Library)

Gerhard von Rad, Studies in Biblical Theology

Martin Noth, A History of Pentateuchal Traditions

Martin Noth, The Laws in the Pentateuch, and Other Studies

Gerhard von Rad, The Problem of the Hexateuch
Once the sources of the Pentateuch became clearly defined and differentiated, these scholars applied form-criticism to each source in order to analyze the origin and history of the many specific pericopes (traditional, narrative, or legal units) in it. Source criticism delineated written documents, while form-criticism separated the oral traditions underlying them. Why was each individual story told? We know. The form critics figured it out for us. See for yourself.


Mythical, Not Historical

Hermann Gunkel, The Folktale in the Old Testament (Historic Texts and Interpreters in Biblical Scholarship, No 5)

*Ignaz Goldziher, Mythology Among The Hebrews And Its Historical Development

Robert Graves and Raphael Patai, Hebrew Myths The Book of Genesis

*Robert Ingersoll, Some Mistakes of Moses

Robert B. Coote, ed., Elijah and Elisha in Socioliterary Perspective (Society of Biblical Literature Semeia Studies)
What sort of myths, legends, etc., comprise the OT? How are they like or unlike those of adjacent and other cultures? How can we tell we are not dealing with history? And if the point is not to recount the facts, what are the purposes of the myths? Astronomy? Priestcraft? Pre-scientific guesswork? Politics? All of the above.


Psalms, Temple & Worship

Hermann Gunkel, Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction

Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms In Israel's Worship (The Biblical Resource Series)

Aubrey R. Johnson, The Cultic Prophet & Israel's Psalmody

*John Eaton, Kingship and the Psalms (Studies in Biblical Theology : 2d series)

Margaret Barker, The Gate of Heaven The History and Symbolism of the Temple in  Jerusalem

Walter Harrelson, From Fertility Cult to Worship
Religious people are highly resistant to young know-it-alls updating their liturgy and hymns. After all, some idiots lacking any understanding of metaphor have tried to censor “Onward Christian Soldiers” from hymnals because they falsely imagine it to be militaristic! It must always have been this way, traditionalists making revisionists fight for every foot of ground. Good thing, too, since the archaic contents of the Psalms give is our best clues as to the very ancient beliefs of Israel and Judah, beliefs subsequently omitted from or ignored in other sources.


Old Testament Theology


Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Volume II

Gerhard von Rad, Holy War in Ancient Israel

Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament Volume I

Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, Vol. 2 (The Old Testament Library)

Edmond Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament

John L. McKenzie, A Theology of the Old Testament

All these books try to answer the question whether there is a single organizing principle or creed connecting the various OT writings. The whole issue grew up because scholars had come far enough to see that the OT did not simply predict Christ and Christianity; the old books must have had their own theology with its own integrity, one that was recapped and carried further in the NT. On the other hand, the notion that the collection of books should have some unitive center was the product of a theological “bias” (expectation) that, as a canon of scripture, the writings ought to have some basic unity. Maybe not. Eichrodt tried to work everything in under the rubric of “the Covenant,” while for Von Rad it was “the theology of recital of God’s mighty acts in Israel’s history (even if they were myths!).


Ancient Israelite Belief

*Hermann Gunkel, Creation And Chaos in the Primeval Era And the Eschaton: A Religio-historical Study of Genesis 1 and Revelation 12 (Biblical Resource)

*Margaret Barker, The Older Testament: The Survival of Themes from the Ancient Royal Cult in Sectarian Judaism and Early Christianity

*Margaret Barker,The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God

Mark S. Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (Biblical Resource Series)

Mark S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts

Hermann Gunkel, The Influence of the Holy Spirit: The Popular View of the Apostolic Age and the Teaching of the Apostle Paul: A Biblical-Theological Study

Albrecht Alt, Essays on Old Testament History and Religion

Raphael Patai, The Hebrew Goddess
The difference between this and the previous category is that between the “official,” canonical beliefs encouraged by the priests and prophets, evident in the editing of the canon, versus the older beliefs still surviving among the common people (and some “retrograde” kings like Manasseh, the OT counterpart to Julian the Apostate) who never gave them up despite paying lip service to the party line.


Prophecy, Prediction and Apocalyptic

Terence Collins, The Mantle of Elijah: The Redaction Criticism of the Prophetical Books (The Biblical Seminar, No 20)

Robert P. Carroll, When Prophecy Failed: Cognitive Dissonance in the Prophetic Traditions of the Old Testament


Norman Cohn, Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come, 2nd Edition

*Sigmund Mowinckel, He That Cometh: The Messiah Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism (The Biblical Resource Series)

Helmer Ringgren, The Messiah in the Old Testament, Studies in Biblical Theology 18
What is the difference between prophetic predictions and apocalyptic doom-saying? How does each view history: deterministic or open-ended? Where did the apocalyptic worldview come from? Foreign influence (Cohn) or the logical historical development of the royal ideology (Hanson)? What did the prophets and their fans do when their predictions failed to materialize? Whence the notion of the Messiah?


Critical OT History


Martin Noth, The Deuteronomistic History (JSOT Supplement)

Martin Noth, The Chronicler's History (Jsot Supplement Series, 50)
Granting that everything before, oh, let’s say, 2 Samuel is legendary and mythical, what facts can we cobble together about ancient Israel and Judah, i.e., after the age of myth and miracle? And what are the agendas of the OT’s historians?


Minimalist OT History

Giovanni Garbini, History and Ideology in Ancient Israel

Robert B. Coote, Early Israel: A New Horizon

Keith W. Whitelam, The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinian History

Marc Z. Brettler, The Creation of History in Ancient Israel

Philip R. Davies, In Search of Ancient Israel (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Ser Vol 148)

*Thomas L. Thompson, The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel
Once imagined (largely on the basis of circular reasoning) to vindicate OT history, archaeology has seriously undermined the notion that the OT is historical at all. There is no evidence of an exodus from Israel, a conquest of Canaan, the glorious kingdoms of Israel and Judah, etc. David and Solomon appear to have been as mythic as King Arthur. What if, instead of being compiled in the days of Solomon or Rehoboam, the J source was written during the Persian period? Or the Ptolemaic? Yikes. Even as skeptical as I tend to be, I never saw this one coming.


New Testament



Alfred Loisy, The Birth of the Christian Religion (La Naissance Du Christianisme) and the Origins of the New Testament (Les Origines Du Nouveau Testament)

Alfred Loisy, The Origins of the New Testament
Fresh and astonishing insights, largely neglected.

C.F.D. Moule, The Birth of the new Testament
Striking ability to reconstruct social history from NT hints. I call it his best book.

Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Master Reference Collection)
A “maximal conservative,” but omniscient as to who has said what on every point!

Willi Marxsen, Introduction to the New Testament: An Approach to Its Problems

Norman Perrin, The New Testament, an Introduction: Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History
These gents provide good statements of the (then) Bultmannian mainstream.

*James M. Robinson, and Helmut Koester, Trajectories Through Early Christianity
Amazing reshuffling of the NT puzzle pieces by following “heretical” currents of Nag Hammadi back through the NT canon.

Burton L. Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament?: The Making of the Christian Myth
Natural heir to Robinson and Koester, adding to the taxonomy of early Christianity by inference from genres.




*Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism
            Able exposition and defense of traditional (correct!) view of Gnosticism as a pre-Christian Jewish-syncretistic baptizing mysticism. Before ludicrous attempts of recent scholars to dismantle Gnosticism.

Ioan Coulianou, The Tree of Gnosis: Gnostic Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern Nihilism
Approaches history of Gnosticism as a series of reinvention, a la structuralism.

Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion
Bultmann’s student who began demythologizing by inferring a psychology of alienation from the myths of Mandaeanism and Manichaeism.

Get anything you can, not easy to do, by this great scholar.



R.H. Charles, Eschatology: A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life in Israel, in Judaism, and in Christianity
The classic treatment of themes differentiating types of Intertestamental future expectation in Judaism.

*Walter Schmithals, The Apocalyptic Movement, Introduction & Interpretation
Shows the kinship between Apocalypticism and Gnosticism as two moments along the same conceptual continuum. Thus demonstrates Jewish, pre-Christian character of Gnosticism.

John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (The Biblical Resource  Series)
Recent, mainstream updating of Apocalyptic thought and intros to all major texts.

Geo Widengren, The Ascension of the Apostle and the Heavenly Book: (King and Saviour III)
A revelation in itself, and just as hard to come by.

*Gershom G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism

Gershom G. Scholem, The Messianic Idea in Judaism: And Other Essays on Jewish Spirituality

Gershom G. Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition

Gershom G. Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah, 1626-1676 (Bollingen series)
Later mystical-messianic trends, but important for the morphology of messianism.

Abba Hillel Silver, History of Messianic Speculation in Israel, A: From the First Through the Seventeenth Centuries

*Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (Galaxy Books)
Medieval Christian apocalyptic, but you’ll see the relevance.



I. Abrahams, Studies in Pharisaism and the Gospels

Jacob Neusner, The Pharisees Rabbinic Perspectives (Studies in Ancient Judaism, 1)

Julius Wellhausen, The Pharisees and the Sadducees: An Examination of Internal Jewish History (Mercer Library of Biblical Studies)

Marcel Simon, Jewish Sects at the Time of Jesus

W.D. Davies, Introduction to Pharisaism, (Facet books. Biblical series)


      Dead Sea Scrolls

Matthew Black, The Scrolls and Christian Origins: Studies in the Jewish Background of the New Testament (Brown Judaic Studies 48)

Jean Danielou, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Primitive Christianity.
Though these presuppose the DeVeaux/Strugnell Roman Catholic line that the Scrolls are Hasmonean in date, their authors do point out many key features of the Scrolls sect like unto the NT Christians.

Robert Eisenman, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians: Essays and Translations
Eisenman’s initial essays showing even more astonishing connections between
Essenes, Zealots, Ebionites, etc., pushing the Scrolls into the first century CE.

Barbara Thiering, Redating the Teacher of Righteousness (Australian and New Zealand Studies in Theology and Religion)

Barbara Thiering, The Qumran Origins of the Christian Church

Barbara Thiering, The Gospels and Qumran: A New Hypothesis
She, like Eisenman, sees the Scrolls sect as a NT entity: the sect of John the Baptist, himself the Teacher of Righteousness.



Emil Schürer, The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus

Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus: An Investigation into Economic & Social Conditions During the New Testament Period



      Source Criticism

B.H. Streeter, The Four Gospels a Study in Origins

William Sanday, ed., Studies in the Synoptic Problem: By Members of the University of Oxford
Classic demonstrations of the regnant Q, Mark, M, L hypothesis.

Adolf Harnack, The Sayings of Jesus: The Second Source of St. Matthew and St. Luke

Richard A. Edwards, A Theology of Q: Eschatology, Prophecy, and Wisdom

*Burton L. Mack, The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins

James M. Robinson, Jesus: According to the Earliest Witness
Increasingly sophisticated treatments of Q as a document in its own right.

John Dominic Crossan, The Cross That Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative
Did a “Cross Gospel” underlie the canonical four? Did the Gospel of Peter employ all five? Looks like it!

*Randel Helms, Gospel Fictions
The main gospel narrative source is the Septuagint (Greek trans. OT)

Dennis R. MacDonald, Does the New Testament Imitate Homer?: Four Cases from the Acts of the Apostles
A big yes.


       Form Criticism

Karl Ludwig Schmidt, The Place of the Gospels in the General History of Literature
Shows artificiality of gospel plot outline. Originally only floating pericopae.

Martin Dibelius, FROM TRADITION TO GOSPEL Translated from the Revised Second Edition of Die Formgeschichte Des Evangeliums

*Rudolf Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition

Rudolf Bultmann and Karl Kundsin, Form Criticism: Two Essays on New Testament Research

Vincent Taylor, The Formation of the Gospel Tradition

Klaus Koch, The Growth of the Biblical Tradition;: The Form-Critical Method (Scribner Studies in Biblical Interpretation)

F.C. Burkitt, Gospel History & Its Transmission

Gerhard Lohfink, The Bible: Now I Get It! : A Form-Criticism Handbook
Classify types of oral Gospel units
. Bultmann is the best, but all are well worth reading. Lohfink has great cartoons!

Eberhardt Güttgemanns, Candid Questions Concerning Gospel Form Criticism: A Methodological Sketch of the Fundamental Problematics of Form and Redaction Criticism (Pittsburgh Theological Monograph Series)
Major whistle-blowing, but from within scholarship, not from apologists outside. A precursor to redaction, composition, and literary criticism of the gospels.


      Redaction Criticism

Joachim Rohde, Rediscovering the Teaching of the Evangelists

Norman Perrin, What is Redaction Criticism?
What subtle changes did each gospel writer make to his oral or written sources? Rohde summarizes much work by redaction critics, while Perrin is more of an illustrative methodological essay (and shorter).



Wayne Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction

Boris Uspensky, The Poetics of Composition: Structure of the Poetic Text and the Typology of Compositional Forms
Both explode criticisms of the one genre for not obeying the conventions of another. Also, techniques for creating the illusion of reality. It’s like hitting “reveal codes” on your computer.

F.K. Stanzel, A Theory of Narrative

Käte Hamburger, The Logic of Literature
These discuss defining conventions of genres. (See also Booth and Todorov.)

Roland Barthes, Image-Music-Text
(esp. “Introduction to the Structural Study of Narratives”)

Viktor Shklovsky, Theory of Prose

*Gerard Genette, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method

Tzvetan Todorov, Introduction to Poetics (Theory & History of Literature)

Tzvetan Todorov, The Poetics of Prose

Gerald Prince, Narratology: The Form and Functioning of Narrative (Janua Linguarum Series Maior)

Seymour Chatman, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film
All these participate to various degrees in Formalist criticism: narratology, narrative structure, etc.

Jonathan Culler, Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature

Jonathan Culler, The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction

Jonathan Culler, On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism
Where lit-crit verges on philosophy. The nature of textuality.

*Stanley Fish, Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities

Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response
Reader Response criticism. All these fascinating works are much more impressive than most of the pale, derivative NT books based on their methods.


Stephen D. Moore, Literary Criticism and the Gospels: The Theoretical Challenge
Demonstrates the amateurish bungling of the huge raft of “Mark as Story,”  “Mathew as Story,” “Luke as Semaphore Code” books. I read them all, not listed here, but save yourself the trouble.

Robert W. Funk, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative
A genuine and insightful adaptation of lit-critical theory to the Bible. I never said it couldn’t be done.

Lynn M. Poland, Literary Criticism and Biblical Hermeneutics: A Critique of Formalist Approaches (American Academy of Religion Academy Series).

*Robert M. Fowler, Let the Reader Understand: Reader-Response Criticism and the Gospel of Mark
The scales will fall from your eyes! Fowler unlocks Mark’s rhetorical technique of talking over the heads of his characters to his readers!




M.J. Field, Angels and Ministers of Grace;: An Ethno-Psychiatrist's Contribution to Biblical Criticism
A field anthropologist shows how biblical “miracle births” presuppose women with sterile husbands conceiving after sex with wandering holy men or “angels.”

Raymond E. Brown, Birth of the Messiah
Micro-detailed commentary on Matthean and Lukan nativity stories and genealogies. In the Middle Ages, Fr. Brown would have been burnt at the stake!

Jane Schaberg, The Illegitimacy of Jesus: A Feminist Theological Interpretation of the Infancy Narratives, Expanded Twentieth Anniversary Edition
She argues that Matthew and Luke do not even try to recount a miraculous birth of Jesus. For Matthew she was raped. Luke half is weak. She had her car filled with buckshot in Texas when the book was published.

John McHugh, The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament
Roman Catholic critical scholarship explaining all viewpoints and exegetical possibilities.

Herman Hendrickx, The Infancy Narratives: Studies in the Synoptic Gospels
Comprehensive and critical, like all his books.


    John the Baptist

Walter Wink, John the Baptist in the Gospel Tradition

Carl H. Kraeling, John the Baptist

Charles H.H. Scobie, John the Baptist
Unremarkable but well worth reading.

John Meagher, Five Gospels: An Account of How the Good News Came to Be
Section on John the Baptist is especially interesting.

G.R.S. Meade, Gnostic John the Baptizer: Selections from the Mandæan John-Book
John as a divine hero in Mandaean literature.



     The Great Higher Critics

Hermann Samuel Reimarus, Fragments (Lives of Jesus series)
This Deist is ruthless and right on target in plucking the gospels like a chicken. Sees Jesus as a failed revolutionist, his disciples as connivers trying to salvage the situation and make a cool buck.

*David Friedrich Strauss, The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined (Lives of Jesus Series)
Shows the purely mythic character of all gospel narratives. The best book on the gospels ever written, even today!

David Friedrich Strauss, The Life Of Jesus For The People  
A later work, supposedly not as critical (though I can’t see it) and more popular.

Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Life of Jesus
More interesting as to Schleiermacher’s thought. He is strictly a Rationalist here. Swoon Theory, etc.

*Charles Guignebert, Jesus, (The History of Civilization [Christianity and the Middle Ages])

Maurice Goguel, The Life of Jesus
These two, along with Loisy, were the French Trinity of radical critics.


     Liberal Lives of Jesus

Ernst Renan, The Life of Jesus
Sentimental, novelistic, hardly scholarship, but important to read given its importance in getting historical Jesus studies off the ground. If you like it, go on and read one of my favorites, the admittedly fictional Jesus the Son of Man by Kahlil Gibran.

Adolf Harnack, What is Christianity?
Jesus as a preacher of non-Christological, individual piety and the “higher righteousness.” Harnack was a student of Albrecht Ritschl.

Alfred Loisy, The Gospel and the church (Lives of Jesus series)
Catholic Modernist Loisy, far more radical than Protestant Harnack, challenges his view that Jesus teaching was the kernel, with the Church being the mere husk. No, Jesus’ gospel was the acorn, Catholicism the oak. But Loisy was excommunicated.

Oscar Holtzmann, The Life Of Jesus

William Bousset, Jesus, (Crown Theological Library)
Typical Liberal lives of Jesus such as Schweitzer attacks.

Martin Kähler, So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historic-Biblical Christ (Fortress Texts in Modern Theology)
He rejects the whole “historical Jesus” approach. A God-man cannot be adequately “psyched out” by ordinary historical science.


     Thoroughgoing Eschatology

*Rudolf Otto, The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man a Study in the History of Religion Revised Edition

*Johannes Weiss, Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom of God (Lives of Jesus series)

Albert Schweitzer, The Mystery of the Kingdom of God: The Secret of Jesus' Messiahship and Passion

Albert Schweitzer, Problem of the Lord's Supper According to Scholarly Research of the 19th Century and Historical Accounts

*Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede (The Albert Schweitzer Library)

Albert Schweitzer, The Kingdom of God and Primitive Christianity

Albert Schweitzer, The Psychiatric Study of Jesus: Exposition and Criticism
These scholars thought Jesus understood himself as the harbinger of the End, the messiah-elect. This belief colored his ethics with an uncompromising absolutism that would be otherwise fanatical, as Tolstoy learned the hard way. But, having divorced Jesus from the modern mindset, Schweitzer then found he had to defend Jesus from charges of insanity! In his famous Quest, Schweitzer showed how previous Jesus scholars had remade him in their own image. Otto suggested that “the Son of Man’ be understood as reflecting Oriental “Primal Man” myths mediated by Zoroastrianism. Out of fashion, but still quite possible!


     Pious but Genuine Criticism

Martin Dibelius, Jesus



T.W. Manson, Servant-Messiah: A Study of the Public Ministry of Jesus.

A.M. Hunter, Work and Words of Jesus

Vincent Taylor, The Life And Ministry Of Jesus

Joachim Jeremias, Jesus and the Message of the New Testament (Fortress Classics in Biblical Studies)
 (compilation of Fortress Facet booklets The Search for the Historical Jesus, The Sermon on the Mount, The Lord's Prayer, plus the book The Central Message of the New Testament)

Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus

Joachim Jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus

Joachim Jeremias, Jesus' Promise to the Nations

Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus (Hudson River Editions)
These scholars were not particularly embarrassed by an apocalyptic Jesus, which they accept from Schweitzer. They were reassured by Schweitzer’s vindication of a Jesus who was interested in theology, not merely ethics, as the Liberals liked to think. Their work breathes the atmosphere of Anglican and Reformed piety with its solemn dignity and does not come off as apologetic spin. Jeremias has been debunked at some points (e.g., Pharisees as oppressors), but is still extremely valuable, as is the wise Manson (no relation to Charlie).


     The New Quest

Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus and the Word

Günther Bornkamm, Jesus of Nazareth

Ernst Fuchs, Studies of the Historical Jesus, Studies in Biblical Theology No. 42

Hans Conzelmann, Jesus: The classic article from RGG Expanded and Updated

Herbert Braun, Jesus of Nazareth - the Man and His Time

Ernst Käsemann, Jesus Means Freedom

Eduard Schweitzer, Jesus

Norman Perrin, The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus

Norman Perrin, Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus

James M. Robinson, A New Quest of the Historical Jesus: No. 25 (Studies in Biblical Theology)

Reginald H. Fuller, The Mission and Achievement of Jesus, Studies in Biblical Theology No. 12

Werner Georg Kümmel, Promise and Fulfillment: The Eschatological Message of Jesus

Heinz Zahrnt, The Historical Jesus

*Van A. Harvey,The Historian and Believer: The Morality of Historical Knowledge and Christian Belief
After Neo-Orthodoxy took Bultmannian skepticism as an excuse to bracket the historical Jesus in favor of the Church’s Christ of Faith, several of Bultmann’s students decided to revive the Quest, seeking evidence that Jesus’ own experience of God might be the basis for the faith to which the preaching about Christ challenges us. Can we recover Jesus’ existential self-understanding vis-à-vis God? Bultmann himself found his skepticism need not be so near-absolute as it first seemed. (Perrin was a student of Jeremias and Manson.) Van Harvey debunked the notion that one can psych out any ancient figure of whom only fragments of evidence survive. He surveyed recent major theologians to see if any were able to be consistent historians or whether they began to cheat for the sake of their beliefs.


     Jesus and Revolution

Robert Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist

*S.G.F. Brandon, The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church;: A Study of the Effects of the Jewish Overthrow of A. D. 70 on Christianity

S.G.F. Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots

Oscar Cullmann, Jesus and the Revolutionaries

Hugh J. Schonfield, The Passover Plot

Hugh J. Schonfield, The Pentecost revolution: The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66

Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence: Popular Jewish Resistance in Roman Palestine (Facets)

Juan Luis Segundo, The Historical Jesus of the Synoptics (Jesus of Nazareth Yesterday and Today, Vol II)
All these scholars, spanning decades, have regarded Jesus as a Zealot-like revolutionist against Rome. They make a pretty convincing case. If there was a historical Jesus, this must have been he. But I suspect the relevant gospel materials represent anachronistic borrowing from the careers of prophets and messiahs around the fall of Jerusalem, especially Jesus ben-Ananias and Simon bar-Giora.


     Jesus and Cynicism

Gerald R. Downing,Christ & the Cynics (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, Vol. 4)

Gerald R. Downing, Cynics and Christian Origins

John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant

Burton L. Mack, The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins
The radical sayings attributed to Jesus in the Synoptic gospels make him sound much more like Diogenes and the Cynics than anything else we know of. Was he a Cynic? Or did Cynic converts (like Proteus Peregrinus) bring their sayings with them, later ascribing them to their new Lord, Jesus?


     Jesus and Magic

Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God?

Stevan L. Davies, Jesus the Healer: Possession, Trance, and the Origins of Christianity

Marcus Borg, Jesus: A New Vision: Spirit, Culture, and the Life of Discipleship
The gospels depict Jesus using healing techniques like those attested for Hellenistic magicians of the day. Contemporary Jews, pagans, and even some Christians understood Jesus as a magician. Maybe he was!


     Jesus and Judaism

Harvey Falk, Jesus the Pharisee: A New Look at the Jewishness of Jesus

Hyam Maccoby, Jesus the Pharisee
Both books observe that the opinions ascribed to Jesus in the gospels, not to mention his beliefs in the end-time resurrection, etc., sound like Pharisee beliefs attested in the Mishnah. Was he a Pharisee?

*Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels
Was Jesus a charismatic Galilean hasid like Hanina ben-Dosah, Honi the Circle-Drawer, and others? They, too, called God “Father,” were announced from heaven as “my son,” and incurred trouble from Jerusalem for not being legalistically meticulous. If it walks like a duck…

Barbara Thiering, Jesus the Man: Decoding the Real Story of Jesus and Mary Magdalene (= Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls)
Was Jesus an Essene? Was he the “Wicked Priest” vilified in the Dead Sea Scrolls? Revives the old Rationalism, including Jesus surviving the cross alive and traveling elsewhere in the empire. Fascinating and based on a command of ancient calendrical lore unmatched by her critics.

E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism

E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus
Jesus did not preach repentance but did lead a movement for national renewal, culminating in the raid on the Jerusalem temple. Explodes a number of Jeremias’s conceptions about contemporary Judaism, esp., the Pharisees.

Bruce Chilton, Pure Kingdom: Jesus' Vision of God (Studying the Historical Jesus)

Bruce Chilton, The Temple of Jesus: His Sacrificial Program within a Cultural History of Sacrifice
Understands Jesus as driven by purity concerns and as negotiating a novel path through a contemporary sacrificial crisis at the temple, substituting the Eucharist for the officially sanctioned Passover sacrifice: “This is my body. This is my blood.” Ahh, I can’t buy it, though I only wish I were half the scholar Chilton is!.

Samuel Sandmel, We Jews and Jesus: Exploring Theological Differences for Mutual Understanding
One of several ways of positively estimating Jesus and even Paulinism from a Jewish perspective.

Harald Riesenfeld, The Gospel Tradition

Birger Gerhardsson, Memory and Manuscript: Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity : With Tradition and Transmission in Early Christianity (Biblical Resource Series)
What if Jesus were like a Tannaitic rabbi making his disciples rote-memorize his sayings, which eventually made it into the gospels? Anachronistic and arbitrary, I think, but “How convenient!”

Marcus Borg, Conflict, Holiness, and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus
Sees Jesus as a religious reformer, trying to move Israel to abandon traditional prejudices in order to avoid conflict with Rome.

Frank Zindler, The Jesus the Jews Never Knew: Sepher Toldoth Yeshu and the Quest of the Historical Jesus in Jewish Sources
Jesus didn’t exist, and a microscopic scrutiny of Jewish sources often said to attest him shows they don’t, even that first-century Jews had not even heard of Christianity, since it didn’t yet exist! Fascinating.


     Jesus as a 1st Century BCE Character

G.R.S. Mead, Did Jesus live 100 B.C.?: An Enquiry into the Talmud Jesus Stories, the Toldoth Jeschu, and Some Curious Statements of Epiphanius, Being a Contribution to the Study of Christian Origins
Amazing discussion of numerous bits of evidence for a very surprising thesis.

Alvar Ellegard, Jesus: One Hundred Years Before Christ
Same basic idea, only argued via a reinterpretation of the Apostolic Fathers.



Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the AUTHENTIC Words of Jesus

Robert W. Funk and the Jesus Seminar, The Acts of Jesus, The Search for the Authentic Deeds of Jesus
Full of helpful info, these volumes collect the results of Jesus Seminar deliberations.

James Breech, The Silence of Jesus: The Authentic Voice of the Historical Man
Weirdly ahistorical (Jesus didn’t believe in God? The Prodigal’s dad and brother were codependent?), but with some good insights about the parables.

Gerd Lüdemann, Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did
Huge and comprehensive.



C.H. Dodd, The Parables Of The Kingdom
The parables as lessons in “realized eschatology.”

*Joachim Jeremias, Parables of Jesus (2nd Edition)
Absolute classic, even if there is room to disagree on individual points.

Eta Linnemann, Jesus of the Parables
A Bultmann disciple looks at the parables.

A.M. Hunter, Interpreting the Parables

Hugh Martin, The Parables of the Gospels And Their Meaning of Today

B.T.D. Smith, The Parables of the Synoptic Gospels,: A Critical Study
These three embody that “sane” and pleasantly pious English approach.

Charles E. Carlston, The Parables of the Triple Tradition
In other words, Markan parables plus their redactions by Matthew and Luke.

Herman Hendrickx, The Parables of Jesus (Studies in the Synoptic Gospels)

John Drury, The Parables in the Gospel
Examines them as part of the gospels in which they appear, not as alleged pre-gospel evidence for Jesus.

Jack Dean Kingsbury, The Parables of Jesus in Matthew 13;: A Study in Redaction-Criticism

Bernard Brandon Scott, Hear Then the Parable: A Commentary on the Parables of Jesus
Scott is a genius, but these readings of the parables seem to me utterly perverse.

John Dominic Crossan, In Parables: The Challenge of the Historical Jesus
Jesus as a kind of Zen master, parables as koans.



Reginald H. Fuller, Interpreting the Miracles

Anton Fridrichsen, The Problem of Miracle in Primitive Christianity

Alan Richardson, The Miracle-Stories of the Gospels

Arthur C. Headlam, The Miracles of the New Testament (Moorhouse Lecture)

C.F.D. Moule, ed., Miracles- Cambridge Studies In Their Philosophy And History

H. van der Loos, The Miracles of Jesus, (Supplements to Novum Testamentum)
These books all partake of a kind of critical yet “believing” rationalism.

John Hull, Hellenistic Magic and the Synoptic Tradition (Studies in Biblical Theology, 2d ser)
Fundamental work on how the gospels show Jesus acting like a magician.

David Lenz Tiede, The Charismatic Figure as Miracle Worker (Society of Biblical Literature. Dissertation series)
Were ancient philosophers made into wizards, or the other way around?

*Gerd Theissen, The Miracle Stories of the Early Christian Tradition
One of the best books of form criticism known to me.

Graham Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist: A Contribution to the Study of the Historical Jesus

Graham Twelftree, Jesus the Miracle Worker: A Historical & Theological Study
Something of a conservative apologist, but the studies provide much detailed scholarship.

Herman Hendrickx, The Miracle Stories: Studies in the Synoptic Gospels
Usual bravura performance: critical, concise, and thorough.



Vincent Taylor, Jesus and His Sacrifice, a Study of the Passion-Sayings in the Gospels

Herman Hendrickx, The Passion Narratives (Studies in the Synoptic Gospels)

Raymond E. Brown, Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave (2 Vol. Boxed Set)
Brown’s micro-scrutiny of the Crucifixion accounts.

Mirza Gulam Hazrat Ahmad, The Crumbling of the Cross
The Ahmadiya case for Jesus being crucified, surviving, and ending up in Srinagar, Kashmir. Interesting!

John Dominic Crossan, The Cross That Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative
Unbelievably interesting, esp. its focus on the “testimonia,” OT proof texts from which the crucifixion account may have grown initially, rather than reflecting an historical event!

*Hyam Maccoby, The Sacred Executioner: Human Sacrifice and the Legacy of Guilt
One of the most fascinating books I have ever read! How the scapegoat becomes divided into a hero and his betrayer, an evil twin, and so the process cont9inues, dividing characters as if by mitosis. Maccoby sounds like Rene Girard w/o the apologetical nonsense.

*Sam K. Williams, Jesus' Death As Saving Event the Background and Origin of a Concept (Harvard Dissertations in Religion)
Shows deftly how a Hellenistic martyr-expiation doctrine allowed Hellenistic Jewish Christians to understand the death of Jesus as a sacrifice cleansing Gentile believers of their defilement, so as to include them alongside Israel before God. Then it turned around to become, in effect, a criterion for salvation excluding Jews from salvation!



*Reginald H. Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives

Herman Hendrickx, The Resurrection Narratives of the Synoptic Gospels (Studies in the Synoptic Gospels)
Form-critical classics! The function and origin of various types of resurrection stories.

Willi Marxsen, The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus’ cause survives him as a kind of “immortality of influence.”

Andrew J. Wedderburn, Beyond Resurrection
Recent criticism of traditional conservative and apologetic evasions.

J. Duncan M. Derrett, The Anastasis: The Resurrection of Jesus as an Historical Event
Vindicates the Swoon Theory as quite plausible.

Hugh J. Schonfield, After the Cross
What else might have happened, other than a resurrection. Tales Ahmadiyya claims seriously.

Kirsopp Lake, The Historical Evidence For The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ
The Wrong Tomb Theory.

Joseph M. McCabe, The Myth of the Resurrection and Other Essays (The Freethought Library)
Draws on Mystery Religion parallels but surprisingly does not opt for Mythicism. More like Bultmann: paganism supplied the terms in which the historical Jesus was mythologized.

C.F. Evans, Resurrection and the New Testament (Studies in Biblical theology, 2d ser)

C.F.D. Moule, ed., The Significance of the Message of Resurrection for Faith in Jesus Christ

Norman Perrin, The Resurrection According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke

Edward Lynn Bode, First Easter Morning: The Gospel Accounts of the Women's Visit to the Tomb of Jesus

Gerd Lüdemann, Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology

Gerd Lüdemann, The Resurrection Of Christ: A Historical Inquiry
Lüdemann shows himself an unreconstructed Old School Rationalist: the guilt felt by both Peter and Paul caused their resurrection visions.

Gavin D’Costa, Resurrection Reconsidered
(esp. Michael D. Goulder, “The Baseless Fabric of a Vision”)

*Robert M. Price and Jeffrey Jay Lowder, eds., The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave



Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development
Personally, I find Koester’s 2-vol. NT Intro to be overkill and with surprisingly dull opinions on this ‘n that. But this book on the gospels shows his characteristic thoroughness, radical views, and deep insight.

*Charles H. Talbert, What Is a Gospel? The Genre of the Canonical Gospels
An empty tomb is an “apotheosis narrative,” commonly told of Mediterranean heroes and saints, ancient and contemporary.

C.G. Montefiore, The Synoptic Gospels
A classic treatment, often quoted.



Krister Stendahl, School of St. Matthew and Its Use of the Old Testament
Focuses on the “formula quotations,” interpreting Matthew’s community as a scribal one like Qumran.

G.D. Kilpatrick, The Origins of the Gospel According to Saint Matthew

Benjamin W. Bacon, Studies in Matthew
Bacon was a creative critic and one of the chief conduits of German criticism to the USA.

M. Jack Suggs, Wisdom, Christology and Law in Matthew's Gospel
Does Matthew consider Jesus Wisdom Incarnate? Maybe.

J. Andrew Overman, Matthew's Gospel and Formative Judaism: The Social World of the Matthean Community
Individual insights are questionable, but he nails the Sitz-im-Leben of Matthew.

David L. Balch, ed., Social History of the Matthean Community: Cross-Disciplinary Approaches

B.C. Butler, The Originality of St Matthew ... a Critique of the Two-Document Hypothesis

O. Lamar Cope, Matthew: A Scribe Trained for the Kingdom of Heaven (Catholic Quarterly Monographs, No 5)
Butler and Cope both hold to Matthean priority. Cope develops interesting exegetical implications that may or mat not stand or fall with his premise.

Arlo J. Nau, Peter in Matthew: Discipleship, Diplomacy, and Dispraise...With an Assessment of Power and Privilege in the Petrine Office
Brilliant, neglected work showing how, after Mark took Peter down a peg, a Matthean redactor rehabilitated Peter—but then another popped his bubble again!

Günther Bornkamm, Gerhard Barth and Heinz-Joachim Held, Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew
The classic redaction-critical study of Matthew!

Michael D. Goulder, Midrash and Lection in Matthew
Sees Matthew as rewritten OT lections for a Jewish-Christian calendar. Radical!

George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew
Evidence in medieval manuscripts for a Hebrew “original” of Matthew composed simultaneously with the Greek for a different audience.


          -The Sermon on the Mount

Herman Hendrickx, The Sermon on the Mount. Studies in the Synoptic Gospels.

Hans Dieter Betz, Essays on the Sermon on the Mount

Martin Dibelius, Sermon on the Mount

Charles Gore, The Sermon On The Mount

Paramahansa Yogananda, Sermon on the Mount

Georg Strecker, The Sermon on the Mount: An Exegetical Commentary

Joachim Jeremias, The Sermon on the Mount

A.M. Hunter, A Pattern for Life: An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount
Jeremias and Hunter try to make the Sermon a description of the blessed life of the one who has received grace (Lutheran theology).

*Hans Windisch, The Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount
Shows how the Sermon presents conditions to be fulfilled before salvation.

Warren S. Kissinger, The Sermon on the Mount: A History of Interpretation and Bibliography



*Wilhelm Wrede, Messianic Secret (Library of Theological Translations)
Showed how Mark is anything but unvarnished history as Liberals had supposed, but is an elaborate piece of narrative theology trying to harmonize two competing early Christologies.

Benjamin W. Bacon, The Gospel of Mark
Classic Higher-Critical study of Mark.

Willi Marxsen, Mark the Evangelist
Major redaction-critical study of Mark.

*Theodore J. Weeden, Mark: Traditions in Conflict
Important scrutiny of Mark as virtually Marcionite in his treatment of the twelve.

Dennis R. MacDonald, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark
Mark as based on Homer. Some striking parallels!

D.E. Nineham, Saint Mark (Westminster Pelican commentaries)
The classic form-critical commentary on Mark.

Werner Kelber (ed.), The Passion in Mark: Studies on Mark 14-16
A symposium demonstrating that the Passion is Mark’s own composition, not based on oral tradition.

*Robert M. Fowler, Let the Reader Understand: Reader-Response Criticism and the Gospel of Mark
Great Reader-Response/rhetorical analysis of Mark

*Burton L. Mack, A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins (Foundations & Facets Series)
Mark as largely fictional and anachronistic.

Heikki Räisänen, Messianic Secret in Mark's Gospel
A dusting off and strong defense of Wrede’s theory for our day.



Friedrich Schleiermacher, Luke: A Critical Study (Schleiermacher Studies and Translations, Vol 13)
Again, better for understanding Schleiermacher than Luke. But it does show the severe limitations of pre-form-critical methods.

J.M. Creed, The Gospel According to St. Luke
Judicious commentary.

Vincent Taylor, Behind the Third Gospel. A Study of the Proto-Luke Hypothesis
Classic exposition and defense of Proto-Luke hypothesis (i.e., Luke added Q to his own L material, then discovered Mark and reworked his gospel to include some 60% if it.

*Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of Saint Luke
The classic redaction-critical study of Luke.

Helmut Flender, St. Luke: Theologian of Redemptive History
Fascinating alternative to Conzelmann.

Eric Franklin, Christ the Lord: A Study in the Purpose and Theology of Luke-Acts
Argues that Luke wrote, accentuating the Ascension as the dawn of a special intermediate period of hidden glory to encourage suffering Christians in the wake of the delay of the Parousia.

Jacob Jervell, Luke and the People of God
Harking back to Baur, Jervell emphasized neglected Lukan elements of Judaism and Jewish-Christian continuity.

Charles H. Talbert, Luke and the Gnostics;: An Examination of Lucan Purpose
Shows how Luke-Acts has an agenda precisely like that of the 2nd-century apologists: anti-Gnostic, anti-docetic. Pagels and James M. Robinson will have more to say.

Roger Stronstad, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke
Clarifies thorny issues of Pentecostal debate as to what pattern, if any, Acts sought to lay down for Christian experience of Spirit-baptism. Case closed!

David L. Tiede, Prophecy and History in Luke-Acts

A.J. Mattill, Jr., Luke and the Last Things: A Perspective for the Understanding of Lukan Thought
Rejoinder to Conzelmann, depicting Jesus as a Zealot-like warlord.

Schuyler Brown, Apostasy and Perseverance in the Theology of Luke

Richard J. Dillon, From Eye-Witnesses to Ministers of the Word: Tradition and Composition in Luke 24

Thomas L. Brodie, “Luke the Literary Interpreter” (Dissertation, University Microfilms)
Brodie suggests Luke scrambled and rewrote the Deuteronomic history to get most of his material. Disorienting, dazzling, brilliant! See his other published book: The Crucial Bridge: The Elijah-Elisha Narrative as an Interpretive Synthesis of Genesis-Kings and a Literary Model of the Gospels

Michael D. Goulder, Luke: A New Paradigm
Not based on Mark-Q model.

C.F. Evans, Saint Luke



*C.H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel
Wonderful tracing through of themes in the gospel, plus comprehensive introductions to Hermetic, Gnostic, Philonic, Qumran, and other influence-paradigms.

C.H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel
Makes a strong case for John’s independence from Synoptics and reliance on brief traditional units like the ones they used, subsequently heavily redacted.

*Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary
Amazing intuitive insight into John’s religious existentialism. Disengages Ecclesiastical Redactor’s padding from original Gnostic gospel. The greatest!

Robert Fortna, The Gospel of Signs: A Reconstruction of the Narrative Source Underlying the Fourth Gospel
or The Fourth Gospel and Its Predecessor
Following Bultmann, he extends the latter’s source criticism, reconstructing the underling Signs Gospel. Also develops John’s Realized Eschatology—what sort of a community believed it and lived it out?

Ernst Haenchen, JOHN 1 and JOHN 2 (2 Volume set)

Jerome Neyrey, An Ideology of Revolt: John's Christology in Social Science Perspective
Despite inappropriate name designed to hook Liberation Theology fans, this is a great sociological study of the increasing alienation of the Johannine community and the concomitant exaltation of Jesus further and further toward Godhood.

Oscar Cullmann, The Johannine Circle

Benjamin W. Bacon, The Gospel of the Hellenists


J. Louis Martyn, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel (New Testament Library)
Places the gospel in the post Yavneh period, in the conflict with formative Judaism.



Stevan L. Davies, The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom
Thomas is not exactly either Gnostic or Encratite but embodies similar themes on display in Philo. Great!

Stevan L. Davies, Gospel of Thomas: Annotated and Explained
Short and sweet!

Stephen J. Patterson, The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus
Sees Thomas as evidence for model of Jesus as itinerant radical.

Gregory J. Riley, Resurrection Reconsidered: Thomas and John in Controversy
Plausible case that Gospels of John and Thomas are aimed at refuting one another. (Pagels’s Thomas book seems to me derivative from this.)

Richard Valantasis, The Gospel of Thomas
A methodological mountain labored and brought forth a mouse.

Risto Uro, ed., Thomas at the Crossroads: Essays on the Gospel of Thomas



*Edward Zeller, The Contents And Origin Of The Acts Of The Apostles - Vol I
A classic of Tübingen criticism! As good as F.C. Baur if not better!

*Ernst Haenchen, Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary
Worthy of Baur and Zeller—great stuff!

Hans Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (Hermeneia: a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible)
Info-packed, comprehensive. Read it with Haenchen as I did in grad school.

Kirsopp and Lake, The Beginnings of Christianity: The Acts of the Apostles : Vol.1 .
4 vols., though this link is for the first volume. All volumes are recommended.)
A feast of informative articles.

*Henry Cadbury, The making of Luke-Acts
Wow! What didn’t this guy know about Luke-Acts and its intricacies!

Leander E. Keck and Louis Martyn, eds., Studies in Luke-Acts
Many important articles, including Vielhauer’s “On the ‘Paulinism’ of Acts,” where he shows the author of Acts cannot have known Paul.

Gerhard Lohfink, The Conversion of St. Paul: Narrative and History in Acts
Great study of one tradition complex.

J.C. O’Neill, The Theology of Acts in its Historical Setting,
Virtually proves Acts was written in the 2nd century.

Martin Dibelius, Studies in the Acts of the Apostles
Historic study made absolutely clear the literary (not historical) character of both narratives and speeches of Acts.

Jack T. Sanders, The Jews in Luke-Acts
Shows Luke was pretty darn anti-Semitic.

Gerd Lüdemann, Early Christianity According to the Traditions in Acts: A Commentary
Interesting treatment, examining each episode in Acts and trying to boil it down to a possible historical core.

Richard I. Pervo, Profit With Delight: The Literary Genre of the Acts of the Apostles
Shows the kinship of Acts with both the ancient novels and the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles.

*Richard I. Pervo, Dating Acts: Between the Evangelists and the Apologists
Acts was written in the 2nd century—case closed. Pervo is like Michael Cisco’s The Divinity Student—with texts for innards!

Charles H. Talbert, ed., Perspectives on Luke-Acts (Perspectives in Religious Studies : Special Studies Series, No. 5)
A number of illuminating studies. Did Luke write the Pastorals? Do the “we” passages of Acts imitate ancient sea-voyage narratives?



Ferdinand Christian Baur, The Church History of the First Three Centuries
Baur traces his insights in Paul through the rest of the early church.

*Martin Werner, The Formation of Christian Dogma: An Historical Study of its Problem
This disciple of Schweitzer shows how the development of Christian doctrine was one long set of falling dominoes following on the delay of the Parousia.

Henry Chadwick, The Early Church
An overview, yet paradoxically detailed. And endlessly fascinating!

*Peter Brown, The Body and Society
Absorbingly interesting recounting and explanation of early Christian sexual asceticism. Wider repercussions that you ‘d ever guess.

Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (The Haskell Lectures on History of Religions)
Shows the jockeying over martyrs’ relics by country shrines vs. bishops because saints were more Christs, a living succession of charisma for whomever was their custodian.

Hans von Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Three Centuries
 Guess which one won out? This is the story of early Christian authority in a
nutshell, pardon the expression.

*Hans von Campenhausen, The Formation of the Christian Bible
Fair and very detailed account of a mysterious and somewhat haphazard process.

*John Knox, Marcion and the New Testament: An Essay in the Early History of the Canon.
Revolutionary work to which Trobisch and Tyson are today’s heirs. Marcion invented the idea of the NT (Von Campenhausen knew this much), but Knox showed how thoroughly anti-Marcionite reaction shaped the resultant Catholic NT canon.

*David Trobisch, The First Edition of the New Testament
Polycarp was the Ecclesiastic Redactor envisioned by Bultmann and others, and he padded out the canon of Marcion, including Luke, as well as adding other gospels and epistles

*Joseph B. Tyson, Marcion and Luke-acts: A Defining Struggle
Acts as a response to Marcion.
(Peter represents not “Jewish Christianity” which wanted to keep the Torah, as Baur supposed, but Catholicism which didn’t want to follow Marcion in cutting loose the OT!)

*David L. Dungan, Constantine's Bible: Politics And the Making of the New Testament
How Constantine closed debate on the canon and made it illegal to fiddle with the contents of the Bible.

*Hans Joachim Schoeps, Jewish Christianity: Factional Disputes in the Early Church
A taste of the author’s longer work, yet untranslated. Tells the story of the Ebionites, Gnosticizing Jewish Christians. The original Christians? For them, Moses was as good as Jesus and Paul was Antichrist. Read this before Eisenman.

Richard N. Longenecker, The Christology of Early Jewish Christianity
This conservative author (see his Paul, Apostle of Liberty) nonetheless does not miss the existence, e.g., of a genuine angel Christology in this branch of early Christianity.

Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period
Fully demonstrates the totally alien assumptions and exegetical practices of the NT writers. There was a definite method to their seeming madness.

Adolf von Harnack, Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God
Classic treatment of Marcion: “He was the only one who understood Paul, and even he misunderstood him!”

*R. Joseph Hoffmann,Marcion, on the Restitution of Christianity: An Essay on the Development of Radical Paulist Theology in the Second Century
Better than Harnack! (If Joe sold his soul to Satan for biblical expertise, it would sure explain a lot!)

*Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity
Calling the bluff of Eusebian propaganda, Bauer shows that “Christianity” meant very different things in different places in the ancient world. Early diversity was clamped off rather than stemming from a primordial unity.

Gerd Lüdemann, Heretics: The Other Side of Early Christianity
Great stuff from the master! We know more than you’d think about some early figures, less than we’d thought about others!

Walter Schmithals, Office of the Apostle in the Early Church
Shows how there were no “Twelve Apostles” (a Lukan construction). Rather, “apostles” were originally divine incarnations from the Gnostic Pleroma. Jesus is still called an apostle in this sense in Hebrews 3:1.

Walter Schmithals, The Theology of the First Christians

*Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Takes seriously sources including the Pseudo-Clementine novels, the Slavonic Josephus, and the DSS as sources for early Christianity. Spells out the Jewish zealotism of James, an important historical figure in his own right.

Robert Eisenman, The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ
A sequel showing beyond serious doubt the 1st century CE date and setting of the Scrolls as the library of Jewish Christians. Paul was “the Spouter of Lies,” Ananas “the Wicked Priest,” and James “the Teacher of Righteousness.” Get used to it.

Stevan L. Davies, The Revolt of the Widows: The Social World of the Apocryphal Acts
Sheds a strange and remarkable light on aspects of the early church.

Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament
Shows how many textual variants thought to be random slips of the pen were instead attempts to make scripture safe for emerging Christology. If you’ve read this, don’t waste the bucks for the Cliff’s Notes version, Misquoting Jesus

Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels
Her best book, intuitively reconstructing the lived Christianity in which these texts took shape.

Gerd Theissen, Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity

Gerd Theissen, Social Reality and the Early Christians: Theology, Ethics, and the World of the New Testament
Amazing illumination of the gospels with broad sociological categories. Answers the question of how on earth the ultra-radical “Give up your possessions” verses were ever preserved! And don’t blink or you’ll miss his brilliant solution of the mystery of gospel third-person Son of Man references!



*Ferdinand Christian Baur, Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ: His Life and Works
His famous treatment of Epistles versus Acts, Peter (Torah-Christianity) vs. Paul (Gentile Christianity), Paul’s authorship only of the Hauptbriefe (Romans, Galatians, Corinthians), etc. Not based on Hegelianism, despite what ad hominem apologists always bark.

*Hermann Detering, The Falsified Paul (Journal of Higher Criticism 10/2)
Revives, expounds, defends Dutch Radical Criticism: Paul wrote none of the epistles! Available @

L. Gordon Rylands, A Critical Analysis of the Four Chief Pauline Epistles

Thomas Whittaker, The Origins of Christianity with an Outline of Van Manen's
Analysis of the Pauline Literature
. Two earlier defenses of Dutch Radicalism.

Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (The Albert Schweitzer Library)

Albert Schweitzer, Paul and His Interpreters: A Critical History
Schweitzer was about the only one to take Dutch Radicalism seriously, and the only way he could avoid their conclusions was to reinterpret Pauline mysticism as an “eschatological” mysticism, which he dubiously claims to find in the NT and Pseudepigrapha

Charles Guignebert, Christ
Classic exposition of the syncretistic origin of Paulinism as missionary indigenization, as we should call it.

Hugh J. Schonfield, The Jew of Tarsus,: An Unorthodox Portrait of Paul
Argues that Paul first thought himself to be the messiah, then yielded to claims for Jesus.

Winsome Munro, Authority in Paul and Peter: The Identification of a Pastoral Stratum in the Pauline Corpus and 1 Peter (Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series)

William O. Walker, Jr., Interpolations in the Pauline Letters (Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement)
Both recent scholars provide reasons to think the epistles were interpolated, as well as criteria for detecting them.

Anthony Blasi, Making Charisma: The Social Construction of Paul's Public Image
Part of that charisma was the notion of a miraculous turnabout, when Blasi points out neglected evidence that he joined relatives already in the Christian ministry!

Hyam Maccoby, THE MYTH-MAKER

Hyam Maccoby, Paul and Hellenism
Takes an almost uncritical view of Pauline authorship of anything (Pastorals, Acts speeches, etc.), but very effective on the Mystery Religion and Mystical origin of Paul’s thought.

Gerd Lüdemann, Opposition to Paul in Jewish Christianity
Read this with either Baur on Paul or Eisenman on DSS. Things will click.

Walter Schmithals, Paul and the Gnostics
A “united front” theory of Paul’s “opponents,” seeing them all as Jewish circumcising Gnostics.

E.P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People
Paul reasons backward from effect (Christ died) to cause (we must have needed it). He is rationalizing as pint man of a new religion, not reasoning within the context of an old one.

Heikki Räisänen, Paul and the Law
Paul was mass of contradictions, his writings incoherent.

Hans Joachim Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History (Library of Theological Translations)
Schoeps sees a major turning point when Hebrew Torah (“Instruction”) was rendered by the Greek Nomos (“Law”), making Judaism look falsely legalistic, esp. in Paul.

Adolf Deissmann,  Paul: A Study in Social and Religious History
Convincing portrait of Paul as a typical Hellenistic mystagogue and missionary, more of a mystic than a theologian.

Johannes Munck, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind
Based on Romans 19-11, Munck sets out what he regards as Paul’s plan to save the world. Also initiated what would later gain strength as the theory (see John G. Gager, Reinventing Paul) that Paul did not require Jews to believe in Jesus, only Gentiles.

Lloyd Gaston, Paul and the Torah
Astonishing set of studies reinterpreting Pauline texts on Jews, Gentiles, and the Law.

Ernst Käsemann, Perspectives on Paul
This author writes with rare theological richness and depth on Paul, as well as a razor-sharp insight into the evolution of “early Catholicism” and “eschatological enthusiasm” as Paul’s main opponents.

Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters
Sometimes the Gnostics seem to have picked up on theology in Paul that others just left behind. Pagels shows the naturalness of Gnostic interpretations.

Francis Watson, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: A Sociological Approach (Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series)
Tübingenism plus modern sociology.

Abraham Malherbe, Paul and the Popular Philosophers
Stoicism permeates the Pauline Epistles.

J.C. O’Neill, Paul’s Letter to the Romans
Best display of O’Neill’s text-critical radicalism, which leads him to chop whole chapters and verses from Romans.

*Walter Schmithals, Gnosticism in Corinth
Shows how much sense virtually everything in 1 Corinthians makes as addressed to Gnostics in the church. A strong implicit argument for a 2nd century date for the epistle, though the author himself doesn’t think so.

Dieter Georgi, The Opponents of Paul in Second Corinthians
A radical Bultmann disciple, Georgi here reconstructs the “super-apostles” preaching “another Jesus” in Corinth. This book fits ideally with Schmithals’s Office of Apostle in the Early Church as well as Theissen’s articles about itinerant radicalism.

*P.N. Harrison, The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles,
The definitive argument that Paul could not have written the Pastorals (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus) from vocabulary, theology, and ecclesiology.

Stephen G. Wilson, Luke and the Pastoral Epistles
If Paul didn’t write them, who did? Luke, as Wilson amply demonstrates.

Dennis R. MacDonald, The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon
He argues that the Pastorals and the apocrypha Acts of Paul and Thecla represent  opposite sides of a debate between radical Encratites and the emerging Orthodox, both claiming Paul’s authority.



Arthur Drews, The Christ Myth (Westminster College-Oxford Classics in the Study of Religion)

Arthur Drews, Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus

Bruno Bauer, Christ & the Caesars: The Origin of Christianity from Romanized Greek Culture

Paul M. Couchoud, The Creation of Christ: An Outline of the Beginning of Christianity, (2 vols)

William Benjamin Smith, The Birth of the Gospel: A Study of the Origin and Purport of the Primitive Allegory of the Jesus

William Benjamin Smith, Ecce Deus,: Studies of Primitive Christianity,

L. Gordon Rylands, Did Jesus Ever Live?

James M. Robertson, Pagan Christs: Studies in Comparative Hierology

James M. Robertson, Christianity And Mythology

Gerald Massey, The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ
These are the classic Christ-Mythicists, drawing heavily on world mythology and the hypothesis of a pre-Christian Jesus/Joshua cult. Too much of this has been forgotten.

*G.A. Wells, The Jesus of the Early Christians: A Study in Christian origins

G.A. Wells, Did Jesus Exist?

G.A. Wells, The Historical Evidence for Jesus

G.A. Wells, Who Was Jesus?: A Critique of the New Testament Record

G.A. Wells, The Jesus Myth

G.A. Wells, The Jesus Legend
Wells sets the debate on a new footing, bypassing the Mystery Religions for the Jewish Wisdom Myth as the basis for a purely mythic Christ. Why so many books? He has to keep correcting idiotic misrepresentations of his work by half-awake critics. And he reviews the latest historical Jesus stuff and apologetics.

*Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus
Doherty is the successor to Wells, who has moved a bit from pure Mythicism. Doherty believes the early Christians did not believe Christ ever came to earth, but was sacrificed by spiritual entities on a  higher cosmic plane. Wells thought the early Christians believed in a Jesus who had been on earth long before, but that he hadn’t.

Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God?
Despite a slightly annoying journalistic tone, the authors compile much striking ancient lore and large Jesus began as an allegorization of the OT Joshua (himself perhaps a mythic version of King Josiah!). Their more recent books are more therapeutic, less historical.

Acharya S., Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled
Jesus, like Buddha and Krishna, started out as a solar myth. Acharya revives the old solar-stellar mythology approach unjustly abandoned long ado. Bravo!

Tom Harpur, The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light
Summarizes and endorses the neglected works of comparative religion Jesus-Mythicists Gerald Massey, Alvin Boyd Kuhn, and Godfrey Higgins. Jesus was Osiris. Numerous points of dubious scholarship. And he shortchanges some great theologians, though. Is Orthodoxy the only heresy?

Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets
(see articles “Jesus Christ” and “Mary Magdalene”) Extremely speculative Christ-Myth theory, connecting dots with intuition where hard evidence is lacking. Yet I find her reconstruction as compelling as it is striking! Dare you read it?


New Testament Christology

Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament
Takes it title by title. Too systematic, but still great scholarship.

*Reginald H. Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology
Maybe best statement of how Christology developed on the assumption of a historical Jesus becoming more and more exalted.

Werner Kramer, Christ, Lord, Son of God: Studies in Biblical Theology
More comprehensive analysis of Pauline Christ language than you’d have thought possible! Shows, e.g., how there is not one single instance in Paul where “Christ” need denote anything but a proper name, so far from Jewish messianism has he gone.

*Ferdinand Hahn, The Titles of Jesus in Christology: Their History in Early Christianity
Resembles Cullmann as to titular approach, but a more radically Bultmannian approach. Great classic.

William Bousset,Kyrios Christos: A History of the Belief in Christ from the Beginnings of Christianity to Irenaeus
Maybe the greatest of several great Christologies, traces “Lord/kyrios” to bilingual Syrian Mystery Religion influenced Christianity. Fantastic range and detail. Conservative claims to have refuted him are so much Bullgeschichte.

H.E. Tödt, The Son of Man in the Synoptic Tradition            
Another Bultmannian classic: did “Son of man” denote “me,” “people in general,” or an apocalyptic deliverer?

Maurice Casey, Son of Man: The Interpretation and Influence of Daniel 7
This exhaustive study shows how Jews did not use “Son of Man” as a title but did use it as a shorthand reference to Daniel 7:13, an allegory for Messiah. Hair-splitting? Not really.

Maurice Casey, From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God

Gordon D. Fee, Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study
This great conservative scholar accepts way too much as authentically Pauline, but he does have a fine-tuned exegetical ear.


New Testament Theology

*Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament- Two Volume Set

Werner Georg Kümmel, The Theology of the New Testament According to Its Major Witnesses: Jesus-Paul-John
These two explore Jesus as a precondition of NT theology but not one of the voices in it. Paul and John are the two great NT writers, maybe including Hebrews, with everything else as declension toward the Catholicism of the 2nd century church.

Hans Conzelmann, An Outline of the Theology of the New Testament.

Ethelbert Stauffer, New Testament Theology
Stauffer made masterful use of the whole Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphical range to fill in the strange worldview to which the NT writers refer. Too bad he was a Nazi and is now burning in Hell, even though there isn’t one.

Oscar Cullmann, Christ and Time: The Primitive Christian Conception of Time

Oscar Cullmann, Salvation in History
In this pair of works, Cullmann sets forth his “inaugurated eschatology model” (also the view, sometimes, of Joachim Jeremias): Jesus won the decisive victory against the Powers on the cross (D Day), but that leaves an undetermined period of “mopping up” till VE Day arrives. This greatly helped conservatives to assimilate Schweitzerian apocalyptic and the delay of the Parousia.

C.H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments: Three Lectures,
Set up the distinction between the original apostolic preaching (kerygma) and the follow-up teaching (didache) as more or less a distinction between the revelation and the human inference from it, the coin of the contemporary Biblical Theology Movement. This left wiggle room for theological reinterpretation for Christians of subsequent ages.

A.M. Hunter, The Message of the New Testament (= The Unity of the New Testament)

Adolf Schlatter, New Testament Theology (2 vols)

Alan Richardson, An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament

Joachim Jeremias, The Central Message of the New Testament
These great scholars contribute many solid insights, but their basic enterprise seems to be to harmonize the texts into one solid core theology of early Christianity by which subsequent Christian belief may be measured.

John Charlot, New Testament Disunity;: Its Significance for Christianity Today

*James D.G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity

Heikki Räisänen, Beyond New Testament Theology: A Story and a Programme

Robert Morgan, ed., The Nature of New Testament Theology
These scholars minimize any common denominator between NT writings. The last two (I am thinking of Wrede’s essay in Morgan) stress the fragmentary nature of  the NT documents and how this fact undermines the possibility that we really possess representative witnesses to “primitive apostolic” thinking.







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