New Testament Scholarship: 50 Books Everyone Should Read (Part 4: NT Theology, Ministry, and Discipleship)

Today’s guest post is from Dr. Nijay K. Gupta, assistant professor of biblical theology and exegesis at Northeastern Seminary and author of several books, including Worship That Makes Sense to PaulPrepare, Succeed, Advance, and Colossians for the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series. He blogs at, and is joining us for a five-part series. See part 1 (Gospels), part 2 (Paul), and part 3 (NT Background).
We are nearly done with our five-part series on 50 books on the NT everyone should read! We are up to the category of “New Testament theology, ministry, and discipleship.” Several great recommendations here.
First, we start with the work of British luminary Richard Bauckham. Bauckham has written so many outstanding works, but one of my favorite theological texts is his God Crucified, now reprinted within the book Jesus and the God of Israel. This book deals with questions regarding the status and identity of Jesus and the Christian commitment to monotheism. While Bauckham is a capable and careful historian, he draws out excellent theological insights regarding what the earliest Christians believed about Jesus as divine.
Next we have the work of Greg Beale. He wrote a really fantastic book called We Become What We Worship, a work in biblical theology that examines the theological nature of the Judeo-Christian anti-idolatry tradition. I cannot tell you how many times I have referred to this book in my own articles and essays. It is pure gold.
I cannot fail to mention James D. G. Dunn, one of my favorite New Testament theologians. What to recommend? While it is a bit controversial, many bells went off in my head (in a good way!) when I read his Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? Dunn’s answer may surprise some readers (and I disagreed with his answer), but his explanatory model is, I think, quite compelling! This is a short book that packs a heavy theological punch! Also be sure to pick up his Theology of Paul the Apostle.

One of my favorite books on Christian discipleship is Murray HarrisSlave of Jesus Christ, a penetrating study of how the New Testament uses slavery language in a metaphorical way. It is clear in Harris’ study that central to this symbolism is the idea that Christians are called to total devotion to Christ. I love this book.

When I was living in England, I had the great privilege of having lunch at a conference with Morna Hooker, one of the finest New Testament theologians of our time. She has contributed much to Jesus studies, but I think she has left an indelible mark on Paul’s theology. Check out her essay-collection From Adam to Christ: Essays on Paul. She has a few memorable essays in there, but one should pay particular attention to her work on “interchange” – a theory that makes great sense of Paul’s theology and speaks also into key areas like theodicy/suffering and ethics.
He has been called the “dean of evangelical biblical scholarship” – I. Howard Marshall. Can there be a more beloved British gentleman-scholar? If you haven’t read a Marshall commentary, give it some time –you will (otherwise shame on you and your teachers). I happily own (not only several Marshall commentaries, but also) his New Testament Theology – a nice, comprehensive work on the New Testament from a life-long journal of scholarship.
In clear contrast (in personality and theological perspective) is Ernst Kaesemann. He is one of those scholars that can delight and aggravate you on the same page of his writing. He is brilliant and stubborn and enigmatic and extraordinarily lucid. You could have a lot of fun reading his Romans commentary, but I would recommend a posthumously-published collection of lectures and sermons called On Being a Disciple of the Crucified Nazarene.
Are you sometimes confused by the wide variety of literature that calls itself “biblical theology”? Then you should read Edward Klink and Darian Lockett’s Understanding Biblical Theology. It is a new(ish) work by some relatively young scholars, but it is a “must-read” to get a proper handle on the range of perspectives on biblical theology and a bit of the currents in the theological study of the New Testament.
In a sense, I was first introduced to New Testament theology by G. E. Ladd, so I happily suggest you read his A Theology of the New Testament. Fun story – one day in the Gordon-Conwell library (while I was a student in 2005), I happened across Ladd’s master’s thesis from when he was a student at Gordon. Everyone needs to read Ladd, especially on eschatology.
One area that I have invested much study in is the biblical language of holiness – thus I heartily recommend David Peterson’s eye-opening study, Possessed by God:A New Testament Theology of Sanctification and Holiness. In much biblical scholarship out there, there is a poverty of understanding of the nature, background, and meaning of holiness imagery in Scripture. Peterson rights many wrongs and paves a more responsible academic path of understanding.
When it comes to thinking about life and work in the church, I cannot think of a better book to recommend than Derek Tidball’s one-of-a-kind Ministry By the Book: New Testament Patterns for Pastoral Leadership. While I only recently started using it as a textbook for leadership courses, students have treasured Tidball’s close study and many insights.
Last, but not least, we have Chris Wright’s almost epochal The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Truth be told, this book has a main focus on the Old Testament, but Wright does cover the whole Bible and his study has vast implications for how we read the New Testament. Every single seminary student, pastor, and missionary needs to patiently and carefully read this book – and then pass it on to someone else.
Four posts down, one to go. Stay tuned.

Written by
Jonathan Watson

Jon Watson is a minister in training with St. Columbia's Free Church in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Written by Jonathan Watson