Tuesday, 23 June 2009

a Bible meme

I've been tagged by Sam on this:

Name the five books (or scholars) that had the most immediate and lasting influence on how you read the Bible. Note that these need not be your five favourite books, or even the five with which you most strongly agree. Instead, I want to know what five books have permanently changed the way you think.

1. Search the Scriptures
This book was my introduction to daily Bible reading in the 1970s. The Bible is broken down into daily readings and accompanied by some questions intended to unpack the text and encourage reflection on how the passage relates to life today. I spent two weeks one summer in 1982 with a friend driving through France and each day we had a short time reading the Bible and praying using the pattern set by Search the Scriptures. I still have the three volumes in my study and my leather bound RSV Bible, a gift from my parents, notated with my answers to the Search the Scriptures questions. I’m afraid I took more than three years to work my way through it.

2. Jude: Dick Lucas
Dick Lucas is the former Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate and has been a key figure in the evangelical movement alongside John Stott. I played drums in a band that provided music for the youth events at the Keswick Convention in the early 1980s and I remember hearing Dick give a series of Bible expositions on the letter of Jude. This was my first experience of sustained expository teaching and it quenched a real thirst to wrestle with the Bible in a concentrated systematic manner. I still have the tapes of Dick’s Bible readings on Jude. Although I disagree with some of his application the key point that stood out for me at the time was his insistence that we cannot understand the New Testament, particularly a letter like Jude, without a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament. Throughout my studies, teaching and ministry this lesson has never been forgotten and is continually reinforced. I am grateful to Dick Lucas, Leith Samuel, John Stott and others for the way their passion for the scriptures enthused me among many others.

3. Romans: James D. G. Dunn
I went to study Theology at Durham University in 1982 just as Jimmy Dunn was appointed Lightfoot Professor of Divinity; a post he held until 2003. It is difficult to overstate just how important Dunn’s teaching and writings have been in shaping my understanding of the Bible and theology in general, but his were the lectures I never missed over three years. I literally hopped to his lectures on Romans during my second year when I broke my leg playing football. Dunn wrote his commentary on the Greek text of Romans during my time in Durham and so I had the privilege of hearing his work before it was published. He used to teach from his draft script, with a pencil behind his ear and as he spoke would occasionally make an alteration or note as he lectured and responded to our questions and comments. The commentary is brilliant because it works at so many levels; the analysis of the Greek, the unfolding of Paul’s theology and the application of each passage and exploration of its significance. I took so much for granted listening to a great Biblical scholar developing the New Perspective on Paul along with E. P. Sanders and Tom Wright. Dunn’s lectures were also very accessible as he taught with a clear structure which is reflected in many of his books. One final comment on Dunn, he practised what he preached and had a real engagement with the surrounding communities in the North East, reflected in his book The Kingdom of God and the North East of England.

4. Theology of the Old Testament: Walter Brueggemann
There are plenty of Old Testament scholars who have enriched my understanding and appreciation of the Old Testament but few have changed the way I view the Old Testament like Brueggemann. I love reading and using Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, Brueggemann’s collection of prayers used before his lectures, but the most influential book is Theology of the Old Testament. The book begins with a magisterial overview of Old Testament theology before embarking on the central thesis of the richness of Israel’s testimony about God. This is a book that demonstrates why the reading of the Old Testament is so important in Christian worship and study. What comes through in this and other works is Brueggemann’s living faith and commitment to the purposes of God. I have seen students who, after a morning session exploring Brueggemann’s arguments, can’t wait to get back to the parish to preach and teach the Old Testament.

5. Daily Study Bible: William Barclay
I’m cheating here and naming two scholars. William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, 17 commentaries on the New Testament, was his attempt at making the best Biblical scholarship available to the average reader. I ‘borrowed’ these books from my father and they have been a valuable aid in my preaching, teaching and leading of Bible studies. I don’t always agree with Barclay’s theology but these little books are packed full of relevant historical background and pithy illustrations. When struggling to prepare a sermon I have often found inspiration in a comment or story from Barclay which has set me off in a particular direction.

..... for Everyone: Tom Wright
Tom Wright is in the process of completing a ‘for Everyone’ series of New Testament Bible commentaries and in many ways he is the heir to Barclay. Wright gives a fresh translation of a passage and then explores the context and background with appropriate and often challenging applications. So good are these little books that my dog has taken to trying to eat them and there are several part chewed volumes dotted around our house. Seriously it is an amazing undertaking from one of our foremost Biblical scholars and it is so encouraging to see Wright making the latest and best scholarship available and accessible for personal or group use.

And finally....
My father wouldn’t describe himself as a scholar, but he loves reading and preaching from the Bible and he knows it inside out. I can’t remember a time when a Bible was not either close at hand or in his hand and I can trace my love of the scriptures to my parents. Dad has a gift for getting to the heart of a passage and relating it to the lives of the congregation, whether in the parish church or in the prison chapel where much of his ministry has been based. Even on holiday he can’t resist the opportunity to preach and unfold the scriptures, turning the cruises that he and my mum enjoy into a busman’s holiday. My mother’s devotional reading of the Bible has also had a big impact on me and so I would argue that much of my own approach to the Bible has come from my parents almost by osmosis.

I tag Jonathan Evens, Tim Goodbody, Graham Tomlin, Chris Tilling and +Alan Wilson.


Tim Goodbody said...

sorry mate, Sam's got me already, so you might want to choose another tag

Philip Ritchie said...

spotted that so I could pretend you had responded to mine!