Friday 10 July 2009

Six of the Best 2: Books on Biblical Themes

This is the second in a series of ‘Six of the Best’ books in a particular area related to engaging with Scripture which are first posted on the website of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

The first one highlighted books for beginners on interpreting the Bible. This one looks at books on biblical themes.

One of the best ways of getting to grips with the big picture of the Bible is to study the major themes – the overarching thematic strands or threads – that are woven through Scripture from beginning to end, themes that arise naturally from the biblical material itself – like creation, sin, covenant, salvation, temple, kingship, etc. A careful study of such themes enables us to see how the whole Bible hangs together, Old and New Testament, and allows us to draw appropriate connections between its various parts.

Ronald J. Allen, Wholly Scripture: Preaching Biblical Themes (St Louis: Chalice, 2004).
Although intended primarily for preachers, others who have already done some work in the area may find the discussion and worked examples useful.

Andy Croft and Mike Pilavachi, Storylines: Tracing the Threads that Run Through the Bible (Eastbourne: Survivor, 2008).
Topped with a brief overview of the biblical story, and tailed with a chapter on ‘the what, why and how of the Bible’, this looks at several threads: Jesus, covenant, presence, kingdom, salvation, and worship. One of the best (with Vaughan Roberts below) for a beginner to this area.

Scott J. Hafemann and Paul R. House (eds.), Central Themes in Biblical Theology: Mapping Unity in Diversity (Nottingham: Apollos, 2007).
A full, academic textbook by key scholars, with long essays devoted to the covenant relationship, the commands of God, the atonement, the servant of the Lord, the day of the Lord, the people of God, and the history of redemption.

Jeffrey J. Niehaus, Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2008).
More challenging than most of the books in this list, exploring select themes with the added dimension of tracing parallels between the biblical texts (especially Old Testament) and the ancient Near East.

Vaughan Roberts, Life’s Big Questions: Six Major Themes Traced Through the Bible (Leicester: IVP, 2004).
An introductory exploration of how the single story of the Bible, told in different types of literature, answers six questions: who is the king? what does it mean to be human? how should we view money? what does God say about marriage? how does the Holy Spirit work in the world and in our lives? what part does mission play in the Christian life? One of the best (with Andy Croft and Mike Pilavach above) for a beginner to this area.

H.H. Drake Williams III, Making Sense of the Bible: A Study of 10 Key Themes Traced Through the Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006).
A middle-level treatment of the themes of creation, covenant, idolatry, Messiah, law, salvation, kingdom, Holy Spirit, people of God, prophecy and fulfilment.

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