Biblical Studies and Theology Christmas Gift Ideas?

by | Dec 9, 2020 | Book Review

I’ve posted almost thirty book reviews on my blog since launching last year. Based on my recollections, I’ve haphazardly ordered these reviews counting down to my number one favourite. Keep in mind that I requested or bought all of these books so just because a book appears to rank low doesn’t mean I don’t like it and it doesn’t mean it’s no good. I liked all of them. I loved some of them. Here they are. Maybe this list will help you discover a book right up your alley.


N. Scott Amos, Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Joshua, Judges, Ruth

In short, this would be a resource I would gladly turn to after I’ve done my own exegesis. I’m not even Reformed. But we should all be able to see the wisdom in considering the contributions of men throughout history who lived, breathed, and mulled over God’s Word. Amos has done us a great service by preserving the fruits of their labor. 


Howell, Merkle, and Plummer, Hebrew for Life

This short little book is more motivational than a kicking frog in a pail of milk. And, although it shouldn’t take you long to read, its impact on the reader is intended to extend into the long term.


J. V. Fesko, The Need for Creeds Today 

Fesko has made an important contribution here in defence of the church and its use of confessions. I remain on the lookout for compelling biblical evidence that demands or at least encourages their use. The strongest argument in favour of the creeds may simply be practical necessity. But his analysis of why their use has declined is insightful. 


Malcolm B. Yarnell III, Who Is the Holy Spirit?

When it comes to the average Christian’s knowledge of the Triune God, the person they probably know the least about is the Holy Spirit. Christians know plenty about God the Father. Christians know plenty about the Son. But what do most people actually know about who the Holy Spirit is other than some of the works He performs? Yarnell has done the church a service by shifting the spotlight to shine on both what the Holy Spirit does and who the Holy Spirit is. 


David Murray, Exploring the Bible Together

If there’s a time Christians have needed to evaluate their family worship, it’s been the past several months. But even when regular church services are back in full swing, families should still be worshipping together at home. This book is a great way to start.


John D. Schwandt, An Introduction to Biblical Greek 

There’s something different about this one. John D. Schwandt’s An Introduction to Biblical Greek is different from pretty much every other grammar I’ve ever seen before. Schwandt tells hopeful students they must learn to read and write in Greek if they want the best possible understanding of the language of the New Testament. This translates into a textbook that’s heavy on composition. And this is a modern rarity. 


David Alan Black and Benjamin L. Merkle, Linguistics and New Testament Greek 

If you have not explored any of these areas before, this is an excellent point of entry into the world of linguistics.


Matthew D. Kim, A Little Book for New Preachers

As you might deduce from its title, A Little Book for New Preachers is little, measuring in at just 4” x 7”. It’s eminently portable, although I suppose it might be awkwardly small for some readers. But there’s nothing negative to say about its short length of just over a hundred pages. Kim doesn’t waste space. He’s included all the right stuff. Every page packs tremendous value making this is a book every preacher, new or old, should read. 


Gerald Bray, Preaching the Word with John Chrysostom

…the two best reasons to read this book are to stimulate your love for the Bible and to stimulate your desire to teach God’s people the practicality of living according to the Bible.


Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, A Concise Dictionary of Theological Terms

This is a useful tool for better understanding what the Bible teaches—from Abrahamic covenant to Zwinglian view of the Lord’s Supper.


C. S. Lewis, Spirits in Bondage 

This is not the Lewis you’re used to reading.


Joel F. Williams, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Mark 

Having this book on your desk is kind of like having instant access to your Greek professor from seminary.


Nijay K. Gupta, The New Testament Commentary Guide

This resource is short, handy, and up-to-date. Gupta has done us all a service by assessing the current state of commentaries and consolidating his findings into a useful tool. He’s done his homework so we can do ours.


Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics 

His theological prose are so readable. I can enjoy reading Vos at length as he walks me through a theological education. And that’s what this book is. It’s the fruit of Vos’s lectures in the classroom. It’s academic. So expect precision and depth. But it’s also extremely clear. It’s truly theology you can spend an enjoyable evening reading on a comfy chair. (Trust me, I’ve done it.) 


Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek

To me, this is the best choice on the market for Greek students. It’s enjoyable to read. It’s streamlined, up-to-date, and comes with a bunch of Ancillary Resources freely available online. Everyone who is going to continue progressing in Greek should have Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, but this is perfect for use in a Greek exegesis course. 


Heinrich von Siebenthal, Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament

…when you want to know why something is the way it is, AGG is the gold standard. This is the definitive resource for your grammatical questions. 


J. Josh Smith, Preaching for a Verdict 

I’m sold. I won’t think of sermons—my own or someone else’s— the same after reading this book.


Tim Patrick and Andrew Reid, The Whole Counsel of God

Whether you’re a newly minted preacher or a grizzled veteran on the verge of retirement, feeding the Lord’s sheep with a balanced diet of the whole counsel of God is the way to go. This book shows you how to do it.


Joel R. Beeke, Reformed Preaching

This isn’t a preaching book that teaches you how to craft sermons or even deliver them. It’s focused more on the ingredients than the recipe. At its heart, it’s a theology of preaching. One that will challenge the reader to elevate their sermons to a biblical standard. It’s a wonderful book.


Cover image from Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek by Benjamin L. Merkle

Benjamin L. Merkle, Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek 

The bottom line is that it’s hard not to be enthusiastic about a book intended to keep folks in their Greek. 


John A. L. Lee, The Greek of the Pentateuch

Lee’s overall theme is helpful to understand in light of other literature on the Septuagint. The Pentateuch translators were adept at writing in Greek. Lee’s methods for proving this is instructive and fascinating. Overall, his work is inspiring and impressive.  


Steven E. Runge, High Definition Commentary: Galatians 

Runge doesn’t oversell. He’s careful to point out that discourse analysis doesn’t answer all our questions or even provide ironclad answers in every case. But the underlying linguistic data, inaccessible to many Bible students, can greatly enhance our understanding of the text. The beauty of this book is that it makes that linguistic data accessible so readers can better understand the book of Galatians for personal study and teaching. 


Six cover images from the book being reviewed.

Elijah Hixson and Peter J. Gurry, Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism 

…I hope the church will benefit from a trickle-down effect as this book brings to light just how outdated and often plain wrong much of the information bandied about actually is. The commonly used statistics and arguments are often incorrect and misleading. And those writing material defending the Bible, continue to rehash this bad information they are simply taking from sources they trust. Hopefully, Myths and Mistakes will serve as a guide to correct and update these errors. 


Siegfried Kreuzer, Introduction to the Septuagint

I’m not sure what all is driving the current Septuagint craze, but its fans want to read and understand a version—a translation of Scripture. This is a book to keep close by when reading your Septuagint. It gives you a current and concise summary of the most significant issues for each book. 


Todd Miles, Superheroes Can’t Save You

It’s pretty rare to find Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man in a book on theology. Theologians typically draw the line at Jesus Christ when it comes to who can save the world. So where do superheroes come in when it comes to theology?


Edgar J. Goodspeed, The Curse in the Colophon

Not only did Goodspeed leave behind a legacy of impressive academic accomplishment, but he also wrote a fun (at times maybe a little contrived) and enjoyable adventure. It’s a leisurely read and one that will especially appeal to students of New Testament textual criticism.  

Thanks to all the publishers and writers who put out all these books. Hopefully there is plenty more high-quality material coming next year!

Featured Image Credit: Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

Brent Niedergall

Pastor, Grammarian, Runner

Brent Niedergall, MDiv, is Chief Editor at Positive Action for Christ in Whitakers, North Carolina. He’s gone to war in Afghanistan, felled towering trees, and parsed Greek verbs.


Brent Niedergall