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Ten Books to Rescue from the Fire

By George Beasley-Murray.

When I was asked to write an article of 600 words on the 10 books which I would wish to rescue from my burning house, I thought it would be a relatively simple decision to make. A little reflection made me change my mind. What of all my Bible commentaries'? What of my Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament, plus my Brown, Driver and Briggs Lexicon to the Hebrew O.T., Bauer's Lexicon to the Greek N. T. and Liddle and Scott's Greek Lexicon? Which books of systematic theology and the many related theological works am I to select, and above all, those I have on the life and teaching of Jesus? If I tried to take all I wanted to keep I'd stagger under the weight and be overcome by smoke and flames and perish with the books!

Eventually I decided that I would try to choose 10 seminal books on biblical theology, so long as I was allowed to include works which had more than one volume. G von Rad's two volume Theology of the Old Testament comes under that category. it is a magnificent survey of the Old Testament and very significant for understanding the New Testament.

Joachirn Jeremias set out to write a work on New Testarnent theology .He completed the first volume, devoted to the teaching of Jesus, but died before writing the second volume. Nevertheless, Jeremias was a meticulous N.T. scholar, with a profound knowledge of Jewish history and thought and his first volume on Jesus concentrates the findings of many of his articles and books.

Wolfhart Pannenburg's Jesus God and Man is an excellent summary of christology in all its aspects, including soteriology , the incarnation and the doctrine of the Trinity. But I would not wish to be without P T Forsyth's The Cruciality of the cross. It is the most moving work on the death of Christ I have ever read. The 1938 reprint of lectures on the same theme, The Work of Christ,contains a memoir of Forsyth by his daughter. She pointed out that while he was capable of writing simply for the laity, when writing tor trained theological minds, he demanded everything they had of mental and spiritual grasp: " At these times he was wrestling with thoughts almost beyond human expression; and he wrote with a physical and nervous intensity which shook the desk, and which after an hour or two left him utterly spent, stretched out white and still upon his study couch, until the Spirit drove him back to pen and paper". When Forsyth wrote on the nature and significance of the atonement, his spirit was moved to the limit as he rooted the doctrine in the holiness and grace of God revealed in Christ.

The death of the Lord is complemented by his resurrection - in the Fourth Gospel the two events are one. None has written on the resurrection of Jesus more powerfully and persuasively than Walter Kunneth in his work, The Theology of the Resurrection.

Room can be found in one's pocket for C H Dodd's book, The Parables of the Kingdom, but I wou]d wish to retain it for the sake of its second chapter. There Dodd set forth the thesis that the message of Jesus is concentrated in the proclamation of the presence of the kingdom of God in his ministry .His death and resurrection therefore fall within the kingdom rather than forming the condition of its coming. This accords with the dynamic nature of the kingdom of God, i.e. God in action for the salvation of the world. Accordingly the kingdom of God is one unbroken process of God the Father saving]y at work in the Son.

This one may learn from W G Kwnrnel's Promise and Fulfilment, which I believe to be the most succinct and authoritative work on the teaching of the synoptic gospels concerning the kingdom of God. One New Testament commentary I would wish to rescue is Rudolf Schnackenburg's The Gospel According to St John. It runs to three volumes and is the most extensive, learned and helpful commentary on that gospel.

Two remaining books will complete the ten. The Inter-Varsity Press has published .A Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels and A Dictionary of Paul and his Letters, which combine in a superb manner introductions to the books of the New Testament with descriptions of their contents. These volumes are encyclopaedic in size. A third was due to be published at the end of 1997, A Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments. This last one I shall hope to secure when my house is rebuilt!

The Revd Dr George Beasley-Murray is a New Testament scholar with many books and commentaries to his credit. He has taught NewTestament at the International Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Ruschlikon and Prague; at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky; and at Spurgeon's College, London


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You are reading Ten Books to Rescue from the Fire by George Beasley-Murray, part of Issue 12 of Ministry Today, published in February 1998.

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