The Common Good
November 2010

Words on the Living Word

by Rose Marie Berger | November 2010

7 Books for Bible geeks and other interested readers.

An Unsettling God: The Heart of the Hebrew Bible, by Walter Brueggemann. Old Testament scholar Brueggemann plays out in detail the tension in the Hebrew scriptures between a feral God who wants relationship (but not domestication) and the people of God who want a static deity, a "king." The peoples' tendency toward settledness and a desire to "go it alone" lead to systems of defeat that can only be overturned by a dynamic agency outside those systems. This is deep biblical exploration from one of our leading scholars. Fortress Press

The Peoples' Companion to the Bible, edited by Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Wilda C. Gafney, Leticia A. Guardiola-Sáenz, George Tinker, and Frank M. Yamada. Following the success of The Peoples’ Bible, this Companion textbook enables students to learn how social location contributes to scriptural interpretation. With 60 contributors writing on all the books of the Bible from Native-American, African-American, Latino/a, Asian-American and Euro-American cultural perspectives, this collection is a primer on the cultural gumbo in which the texts originally were written and to which they will speak in the mid-21st century, when more than 50 percent of the U.S. population will be of non-European descent. Fortress Press

Preaching in an Age of Globalization, by Eunjoo Mary Kim. Kim develops a concept of "transcontextual preaching" that builds on global solidarity across difference and allows various voices and cultures -- including the scriptures' original social-historical context -- to offer commentary on the text and on our own lives. This is a book for working preachers and students of preaching. Kim lays out a set of questions that preachers and Bible study leaders can ask themselves before they build sermons or lesson plans and includes four brilliant sermons as examples that are well worth the price of admission. Westminster John Knox

Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time, by Sarah Ruden. During a Quaker Bible study course, Ruden discovered that the English translation of Galatians she was studying did not match what she knew about the original Greek. As an acclaimed translator of Virgil's Aeneid, Ruden’s training is in polytheistic classical literature and, specifically, the bawdy pop-lit of that time. Ruden takes on Paul’s most controversial topics -- pleasure and "flesh," slavery, women, homosexuality, the state -- and sets interpretations in their cultural context. What she uncovers is a fresh, accessible, and often humorous peek into Paul's revolutionary message -- a message that speaks boldly to our own era. Pantheon

Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul's Letters, by Philip B. Payne. A specialist in New Testament studies and linguistics, Payne intended this book to be a biblical defense of hierarchical gender roles. During the research he was converted by the texts themselves to a biblical position of equity between men and women in all spheres. As a member of the Evangelical Free Church of America who was educated at top evangelical institutions, Payne brings his passionate belief in the inerrancy of scripture to the issue. Man and Woman is a theologically and socially conservative exposition showing that the New Testament affirms the equal standing of men and women, with serious implications for those who continue to base gender subordination on biblical presumptions. Zondervan

Priscilla's Letter: Finding the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, by Ruth Hoppin. The theory that Priscilla, co-worker of Paul, is author of the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews is not new. However, Hoppin’s thoroughly and meticulously researched work, including new archeological data, significantly strengthens the case that Priscilla must be listed as one of the prime candidates for authorship. Hoppin makes an excellent case for the most likely female author of a scriptural text. (Also available in Spanish.) Lost Coast Press

Apocalypse and Allegiance: Worship, Politics, and Devotion in the Book of Revelation, by J. Nelson Kraybill. As former president of the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Kraybill taught on the book of Revelation around the world for more than 20 years. His experience comes together in this in-depth exploration of Revelation as a spiritual treatise against empire -- and forever for the wounded Lamb. Set squarely in the context of post-9/11 America, Kraybill examines the political consequences of worship in the context of deified empire. While Revelation has been abused by pop eschatologists and cult leaders, Kraybill gets back to the source and the liberating power of the book. Each chapter comes with discussion questions and a contemporary example. Brazos

Rose Marie Berger is an associate editor of Sojourners.

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