Books briefly noted: Bible and theology

Amy Pagliarella recommends some new books that explore the Bible and theology.

First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament

Terry M. Wildman (lead translator)
InterVarsity Press, 2021, 512 pages

Native North Americans from more than 25 tribes gathered to create this new translation of the New Testament. Drawing on their own oral traditions and using an English-language “thought-for-thought” (rather than a word-for-word) approach, the translators offer a melodic and poetic version of the Bible that begs to be read aloud or savored slowly. The words speak to the heart and are ancient, timeless and fresh all at once.

Indigenous Theology and the Western Worldview: A Decolonized Approach to Christian Doctrine

Randy S. Woodley
Baker Academic, 2022, 160 pages

I nearly missed this one until the subtitle caught my eye. Drawing on his many interviews and lectures, Woodley invites us to engage with Scripture and the world from an Indigenous worldview, recognizing that Jesus and the biblical writers were not western Enlightenment thinkers but rather were more like Indigenous people in their perspectives. With humor and humility, Woodley helps us “understand narrative has truth, and facts are, well, not so important as truth,” inviting deeper understanding of biblical stories.

Elusive Grace: Loving Your Enemies While Striving for God’s Justice

Scott Black Johnston
Westminster John Knox, 2022, 172 pages

Writing in the shadow of New York City’s Trump Tower, the senior pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church offers guidance for Christians seeking to love their neighbor and their enemy both, in the current ideological and political climate. Our best hope lies in faithful communities, where we follow Christian virtues and reclaim ancient practices — together. Johnston makes his case with Bible stories and winsome anecdotes from his own life and popular culture in this timely work.

Jesus’ Alternative Plan: The Sermon on the Mount

Richard Rohr
Franciscan Media, 2022 reissue, 208 pages

The popular Franciscan priest has updated one of his earlier works to provide a new take on the “new world order” that Jesus described and that ultimately led to his death. By painting a vivid picture of God’s realm and revisiting the “Happy Attitudes,” as Rohr names the Beatitudes, he invites us into a new way forward, one in which we build bridges with one another and allow God to transform us.

The Word of a Humble God: The Origins, Inspiration, and Interpretation of Scripture

Karen R. Keen
Eerdmans, 2022, 279 pages

In every Bible study group, there’s someone who asks, “But who wrote the Bible? How were the many books and letters assembled into one? How do we know what’s literal and which parts are stories?” Keen answers these questions and more in a scholarly yet accessible book for pastors and teachers.

Biblical Exegesis: A Beginner’s Handbook, Fourth Edition

John H. Hayes and Carl R. Holladay
Westminster John Knox, 2022, 316 pages

At first glance, this handbook looks like a text from a seminary’s Bible 101 class, and it would work beautifully in that context. But this resource is also useful for church study groups, pastors and others eager to exegete (or interpret) the Bible by looking first at the text itself and then diving into the biblical world to understand the literary and historical context. First published in 1982, this fourth edition includes notes for conducting online research, exegesis as a way to inform our advocacy, and other applications relevant for today.

Matthew: A Commentary

R. Alan Culpepper
Westminster John Knox, 2022, 664 pages

As we enter Year A in the Revised Common Lectionary, pastors will benefit from a go-to resource that breaks down the Gospel of Matthew verse by verse, explaining the Greek words as well as the context. This new addition to the New Testament Library series does all these things beautifully.

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