What I Read in 2019

I know that I’m a couple weeks late to the party with my list of what I read in 2019, but my reading list from this past year is below.  Before that, however, couple of notes.

First, you’ll see that there are many churchworld books included in this list, be they instructional-type books or commentaries. This is one benefit of my work in vocational ministry: I get to read deeply and widely on theological and scriptural topics.

Second, one of my goals for 2019 was to read more fiction, so I categorized those reading separately. In recent years, I had found myself reading only a couple works of fiction a year, so my 2019 reading in this area stands as a significant improvement, one that I hope to continue in 2020.

Third, note a couple of special categories: books followed by a [re-read] designation are books that I’d read before but re-read for whatever reason. Additionally, books followed by an * (and also hyperlinked) are what I view as the best-of-the-best, reading that really stood out. I won’t choose a “top book” or anything like that, but if I did, I would come from these selections.

Finally, as a big proponent of holding oneself accountable for goals, I note that I aimed to read 150 books in 2019. This list contains 165. And so, without further ado, what I read in 2019 (presented in chronological order by category): Continue reading

What I’ve Been Reading

Over at Conciliar Post, we’ve got a nice collection of short write-ups on the books that some of our writers have been reading. My contributions are included below, but I’d encourage you to check out what else we’re been reading by clicking here. Continue reading

How to Approach Difficult Bible Passages

As a teacher, I am regularly asked about Bible passages and the theology they convey. Sometimes the questions are straightforward; other times, not so much. Some time back, for example, as I was innocently trying to lead our community group through Romans 8:18-30, I was asked how to interpret verses 29-30 in light of that not-at-all-discussed-among-Christians topic of Predestination and Freewill. It happens.

The vast majority of the time, I am more than happy to dig into a text and explain what I think and why. Having been privileged to study under some brilliant Biblical scholars (and having read many more), I am all too eager to hold forth on the Scriptures, and I genuinely hope that my discussion helps those listening. However, in the past several years I have discovered a more fruitful approach to addressing these questions: walking through Bible passages with people and training them how to read and interpret wisely. Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Bibliography

This post is the final in our series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

Primary Sources

Athanasius of Alexandria. Letter to Marcellinus. Edited and translated by Robert C. Gregg. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus. Classics of Western Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 1980.

Aristotle. Art of Rhetoric. Translated by J. H. Freese. Loeb Classical Library 193. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926.

Clement of Rome. 1 Clement. Edited and translated by Bart D. Ehrman. The Apostolic Fathers: I Clement, II Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Didache. Loeb Classical Library 24. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003. Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Graphing Addenda

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

Graphing Addenda

  • Color: Text (i.e., blue for 1 Clement, red for Ignatius, green for Hermas)
  • Size: Length (i.e., bigger the dot/sphere, the longer the passage)
  • Brightness/Translucence: Clarity (i.e., the brighter/more solid a point, the more certain its use; analogy of quantum location for specific locations on spectrum)

Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Conclusions

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

Open BibleThis series has sought to begin developing a common methodological language for discussing ancient textual borrowing. Building from blocks of common concerns within the subfields of the study of late antiquity, I have outlined a methodological framework for approaching ancient literary citations and for offering arguments about what these uses indicate. My central contention has held that a composite methodology for understanding uses of one ancient source in another requires considerations of the verbal, thematic, and authoritative schemata through which ancient authors viewed and redeployed the sources available to them. In constructing the method, I have employed a “three dimension Cartesian coordinate system.” In this system the verbal correspondence axis has outlined a range from quotation to echo. The thematic correspondence axis considered thematic uses from explication to echo. And the third axis examined authoritative correspondences from formal quotations to unknown uses. Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Stream of Thought

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

Clement of Rome

Clement of Rome

The third level of authoritative correspondence includes “stream of thought” and “somewhere” references. These citations cast their source texts as implicitly authoritative: not so important that they bear explicit mention but important enough to creatively insert into the discussion at hand.[1] Many times use of a particular text will occur in a stream of thought, a series of references to the argument of a source text but without clear indication of that text.[2] David Downs has demonstrated such a use of Romans 5-6 in 1 Clement 32-33, which expands upon Paul’s teaching on justification through repeated return to the language and authority of Romans.[3] Such references often appear in slightly modified form, since it is the meaning of the text rather than its explicit authority to which an author appeals.[4] Finally, there is the ever enjoyable που reference, where an author offers a citation located “somewhere” but without knowledge (or care) from whence it came. 1 Clement 28:2-3 employs this formula, saying “For the Scripture somewhere says, ‘Where will I go and where will I hide from your presence?’”[5] Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Formal Authority and Name Dropping

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

it-is-writtenWhat then are the various forms of authoritative correspondence? On one end of the authoritative spectrum are formal quotations, commentaries, and translations. Formal quotations denote the highest level of attributed authority within general literary works, while commentaries and translations reveal the importance of a text through sustained treatment of that text.[1] In contrast to scholars who argue that quotation does not indicate what an author thought of the work being quoted or that quotations were surface embellishments,[2] formal quotations consistently carry authoritative weight in arguments.[3] Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Authoritative Correspondence

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

The Early Church Fathers

The Early Church Fathers

The authoritative correspondence spectrum constitutes the third and final method of tracking how texts were received by other ancient texts. This spectrum ranges from obviously high attributions of authority to unknown levels of authority. I say “unknown” authority rather than “no” authority because texts which are utilized by others are prima facia accorded some measure of authority.[1] A lack of clear indicators, however, makes the assignment of exactly how much authority difficult to accurately represent. Consideration of authority also raises the issue of functionality, and in large part, an authority correspondence indicates how one text functions in another.[2] On this Christopher Stanley says, “Words are spoken (or written) with the aim of doing something to the hearer(s), that is, evoking some sort of response.”[3] Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Thematic Echoes

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

Apostle Paul WritingThe most amorphous and difficult to trace form of thematic correspondence is the thematic echo, where certain words or short phrases used in one text appear in another.[1] These resonances are particularly difficult to place when multiple sources employ the theme or when the text using these echoes employs different themes in close proximity.[2] As an example of multiple possible sources using one theme, consider Romans 10:7, which reads “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’”[3] One could argue that here Paul was using Deuteronomy 30:13 (“Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and get it for us?”),[4] Baruch 3:30 (“Who has gone over the sea, and found her, and will buy her for pure gold?”),[5] or the Wisdom of Ben Sira 24:5 (“Alone I compassed the vault of heaven and traversed the depths of the abyss.”).[6] Continue reading