New College, University of Edinburgh
Top 10 books for NT graduate students

Top 10 books for NT graduate students

(Frank Dicken, Ph.D. Candidate)  Every Tuesday a group of postgraduate students in New Testament studies meets in an informal reading group to discuss a piece of secondary literature that is related to the field. For example, we are currently reading Conversion by A.D Nock (as recommended by Prof. Hurtado). In the recent past we have read The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies by Michael Legaspi and Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul by Richard Hays. Occasionally, as the professors here at Edinburgh write and publish they are asked to meet with the group and discuss their work with us. In the past year we have examined The Earliest Christian Artifacts with Prof. Hurtado and Dr. Bond shared a pre-publication version of her upcoming book on the historical Jesus. As students, we are all researching and writing very focused theses and view the reading group as an important time to become acquainted with the wider field of NT studies.

At the conclusion of our meeting several weeks ago, we began thinking out loud about a list of works we considered among the most significant in the field for us to know. We decided that it would be informative to ask our professors, “If you had to name ten books that any Ph.D. graduate in NT ought to know, what would they be?” Here are their responses:

Dr. Paul Foster

1.       Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th ed.

2.        Kurt and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament

3.        Raymond E. Brown, Introduction to the New Testament

4.        B.H. Streeter, The Four Gospels

5.        John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew (4 vols.)

6.        E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism

7.        W.D. Davies and Dale Allison, Matthew (3 vols.)

8.        James D.G. Dunn, Romans (2 vols.)

9.        Georg Strecker, Theology of the NT

10.     Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle

11.     Rudolf Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition


Dr. Helen Bond

1.        James D. G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, 3rd ed.

2.        Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her

3.        E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism

4.        John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew (4 vols.)

5.        Dale Allison, Constructing Jesus

6.        Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism

7.        John M. G. Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora

8.        E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief

9.        E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism

10.     Donald Juel, Messiah and Temple: The Trial of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark


Prof. Larry Hurtado

1.        Wilhelm Bousset, Kyrios Christos

2.        Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament Theology

3.        Wayne A. Meeks, The First Urban Christians

4.        E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism

5.        Albert Schweitzer, The Quest for the Historical Jesus

6.        Adolf Deissman, Light from the Ancient Near East

7.        E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism

8.        Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism

9.        Stephen Neil and N.T. Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861–1986

10.     Oscar Cullmann, Christology of the New Testament


Dr. Matthew Novenson

1.        Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity

2.        Ferdinand Christian Baur, Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ

3.        Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings

4.        Wayne A. Meeks, The First Urban Christians

5.        Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament

6.        E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism

7.        Emil Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Rev. and ed. by Geza Vermes and Fergus Millar

8.        Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her

9.        Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus

10.     David Friedrich Strauss, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined


If you are familiar with the work of these professors, you know that each list is somewhat reflective of their interests. Also, aside from Dr. Foster’s rightful insistence that a NT scholar ought to have read the NT in Greek, we asked that they focus on secondary literature. Each professor would emphasize the importance of familiarity with the primary sources related to the study of the NT: Old Testament, Apocryphal/Deutero-canonical and Pseudepigraphal texts, Apostolic Fathers, Second Temple Jewish literature, Josephus, Philo, etc.


What are your thoughts about the works listed here? What texts would you add? We’d like to hear from you, so feel free to comment below.

  • CSCO Team,
  • 23rd February 2012


  • John C. Poirier, 23rd February 2012 at 12:17 pm | Reply

    These lists are great.

    But where’s C. H. Dodd? Everyone should read his *The Apostolic Preaching and Its Development* and his *The Bible and the Greeks*.

    And although James Barr dealt mostly with the OT, I think NT students should read all his major works.

  • Michael, 23rd February 2012 at 2:31 pm | Reply

    Since a lot of the focus is on Historical Jesus studies, there seemed to be postmodern work omitted. Something from a literary critical angle, or narrative critical angle. Frei, or Gadamer? Or both?

  • BW16, 23rd February 2012 at 8:00 pm | Reply

    I tend to agree with Michael. Perhaps something by Stephen Moore would be appropriate?

  • Eric, 24th February 2012 at 1:48 am | Reply

    Ditto, Michael. Virtually nothing of literary critical scholarship? Rhoads et al, _Mark as Story_; Culpepper, _Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel_, and Moore, _Literary Criticism and the Gospels_–at a (dated) minimum. Or (modern or postmodern) hermeneutics? _The Postmodern Bible_, again at a minimum, but ideally with Richard Palmer, _Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Scheliermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer. ES Fiorenza at least gets two nods, though half a dozen others could be included here too–but as long they’re reading F.C. Baur, Bultmann, and Cullman, and Streeter they’ll still be good to go, right?

    More seriously, how about a similar list of must-read journal articles too?

  • Raymond, 26th February 2012 at 5:23 pm | Reply

    Where is N.T. Wright? He only edited the volume by Caird but he can stand on his own.

  • Doug, 26th February 2012 at 8:38 pm | Reply

    If I’m not mistaken, Sanders’ Paul and Palestinian Judaism is the only one that makes all four lists. I don’t think any other book makes more than two. In terms of ongoing influence still apparent today, Sanders certainly deserves that distinction, but I would have thought First Urban Christians might also have qualified along with Judaism and Hellenism.

  • Jon Bennett, 27th February 2012 at 7:37 pm | Reply

    Neil’s “History of Interpretation” was really helpful for me.

    In order to create a balance for what seems to be weighted to the NPP in the above lists, perhaps D A Carson et al’s “Justification and Variegated Nomism” (II Vols) would be a good suggestion for those want to hear other views on Paul.

    Great lists, thanks.

  • Brice, 28th February 2012 at 2:47 am | Reply

    I would also add Martin Dibelius’ “From Tradition to Gospel.” While the classic form-critical view is most often associated with Bultmann, Dibelius’ work is still very important, especially his theory that “in the beginning was the sermon” (a view with which Bultmann did not always agree). I find Dibelius more convincing at times than Bultmann.

  • Hugh Scott, 10th September 2015 at 11:59 pm | Reply

    There are four books which I most strongly recommend, none of which is listed by anyone here. They all positively defend the mainstream Christian position on the historicity of Jesus and the general historical trustworthiness of the New Testamentt and then-contemporary references to Jesus and Christian origins, by the methods of historiography, a knowledge of the ancient Hebrew/Greek/Latin/Mediterranean/Egyptian/Near-Eastern/Christian world, textual analysis, etc., and also (what for me is an unanswerable support for this positive assessment) attack head-on the mythical/hero-type/midrashic/pagan figures, historical or mythical, who are brought in to compare (always totally ineffectively) in some way to Jesus.

    My books (in every case with a crucial sub-title) are:
    1) Reinventing Jesus – How Contemporary Skeptics Miss The Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture ( J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer and Daniel B. Wallace, Kregel Publications, 2006);
    (2) Putting Jesus in His Place – The Case For The Deity Of Christ (Robert M. Bowman Jr., J. Ed Komoszewski, Kregel Publications, 2007)
    (3) Fabricating Jesus – How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (Craig A. Evans, IVP, 2007);
    (4) The Jesus Legend – A Case For The Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd, Baker Academic, 2007).

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