Take & read
The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, by Peter Enns. On the basis of what is known about Genesis, its origins and its subsequent interpretation, Enns argues in this sensitive and highly readable book that modern evolutionary science can coexist with the scriptural account of creation in Christian understanding. Writing with high respect for scripture, he cogently assembles information and perspectives to help Christians understand Genesis on its own terms and navigate the troubled passage between science and theology.
Jewish Interpretation of the Bible: Ancient and Contemporary, by Karin Hedner Zetterholm. Jewish interpreters both paved the way for Christian understanding of scripture and continued to offer alternative paths. Zetterholm introduces the ancient rabbinical developers of the Mishnah, Talmud and Midrashim, explores the Jewish character of Jesus’ and Paul’s understandings of the Hebrew Bible and describes the various streams of Judaism alive today, along with their approaches to scripture.
The Violence of Scripture: Overcoming the Old Testament’s Troubling Legacy, by Eric A. Seibert. This is one of three new books that examine the troubling problem of divinely sanctioned violence within scripture. This straightforward and pastoral treatment begins with the premise that “the Bible should never be used to inspire, promote, or justify acts of violence.” Seibert distinguishes between reading the Bible compliantly and reading it conversationally, and he commends critical, ethically constructive readings of the texts, especially texts that have been used to justify war and brutality against women.
Sacred Word, Broken Word: Biblical Authority and the Dark Side of Scripture, by Kenton L. Sparks. An engaging, plainspoken path through the complexities of scriptural hermeneutics and interpretation, this book is particularly intended for evangelical readers seeking to grapple with passages that commend violence and with other challenges to modern sensibilities, including scripture’s internal contradictions. For Sparks, scripture reflects the realities of a created world that is inherently good, altogether broken and in the process of being redeemed.
Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses, by Philip Jenkins. To Christians and Jews who are more prone to point out violence in the Qur’an than in the Bible, Jenkins advises close scrutiny of our own heritage and history. His examination of Christian amnesia concerning both the Bible and the postbiblical world opens ground for dialogue with Muslims over religious extremism and helps readers to understand not only the Bible but the ways adherents of other religions read their scriptures.
Jeremiah: Pain and Promise, by Kathleen M. O’Connor. O’Connor employs both her empathetic imagination and the discipline of trauma studies to open her discussion of the peculiar and pain-filled book of Jeremiah, calling it “a relentless quest for meaning” in the midst of suffering and displacement. Arranging passages by genre, she seeks redeeming value in much of its extreme language as it grapples with the ancient traumas of the Babylonian exile and calls out to later people who seek language as extreme as their own sorrows, as resilient as their own hopes.
Women’s Bible Commentary (20th anniversary edition), edited by Jacqueline E. Lapsley, Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe. The 20th anniversary edition of this popular one-volume commentary updates every article and adds many new essays, including 13 on key biblical women and interpretation of them through the ages. The commentary stands as a primary source for those seeking to know more about women in the Bible and about the discoveries of those who read the Bible not only as scholars but as daughters, mothers and wives.
The Unfolding Mystery of the Divine Name: The God of Sinai in Our Midst, by Michael P. Knowles. Beginning with God’s self-revelation in Exodus 34 (“The Lord, the Lord, a God compassionate and gracious”), Knowles unfolds, piece by piece, the divine attributes named in this passage, exploring their meaning in Exodus and throughout scripture and Abrahamic tradition. This is not an academic exercise. Encountering God through these words opens the way to imitating God more fully: “The character of God is most relevant to those who seek to live by it.”
Mourner, Mother, Midwife: Reimagining God’s Delivering Presence in the Old Testament, by L. Juliana M. Claassens. Among the varied metaphors for God in the Bible are ones that show God in roles typically reserved for women: as a mother giving birth to new realities, as a mourner over national and personal suffering and as a midwife drawing new life into being. With these roles, the function of God as a delivering presence takes on new and creative dimensions in both the Bible and the contemporary world, including Claassens’s native South Africa.
The Return of the Chaos Monsters—and Other Backstories of the Bible, by Gregory Mobley. As the sassy title hints, this book is fun. Wise, deep and learned, it roams through creation like Job’s Satan to point out archetypal narratives functioning both in ourselves and in scripture. Mobley examines the deep structures of seven biblical storylines that disturb and move readers, beginning with the backstory of creation that is detectable in the Bible’s first two verses: “God has subdued chaos, just barely.”