The list author says: "The Bible is certainly a foundational, revelational source for Christian belief and faith, second only to the revelational Christ of faith.
Viewpoints about the nature of it's inspiration are often very polarized. Either the Bible is viewed as the inerrant and infallible word of God (to be taken literally) OR simply as the culturally influenced reflections of ancient peoples that can still evoke a sense of the numinous today (to be taken mythologically).
This list provides resources to develop a third way that avoids the rigid literalism of fundamentalist thought and yet still respects the divine influence in the progressive shaping of our canonical Bible.
Part I lists books in the moderate camp that discuss the nature of inspiration in the Bible. There is very little here that wrestles with the hard issues in a detailed manner, however. There remains to be written, a superior treatment that doesn't assume the gains of modern biblical criticism but articulates them comprehensively and clearly enough for both evangelical and mainline readers.
Part II lists books that discuss the problematic aspects of the Bible and why we cannot defend the Bible as being inerrant. Some books articulate a more extreme, non-believing stance but still provide helpful perspective, if read discerningly. You'll find more of the hard issues raised in this part of the list. (Read from all sides of the issue to challenge assumptions and by all means, read Josh McDowell, D.A. Carson, and any relevant evangelical to see the full range of issues.)
My take: God still actively speaks today but in ways that honor and build on Biblical tradition. But like Jesus, we must be courageous in challenging old wineskins that constrict and stultify God's ongoing, emancipating truth. God's "word" is always expressed incarnationally within the limiting cultural and biographical matrix of every human vessel. Inerrancy really resides only in God!"
"Part I Probably the best overall treatment of Biblical inspiration eschewing the woodenness of inerrancy but retrieving a place for it's vital ongoing use in the life of the church. Small enough to serve as an introduction to the issues."
"Achtemeier is a veteran NT scholar, who in this book works hard to preserve the authority of the Bible for the church while dismissing claims of it's inerrancy. Good discussion on how the Bible was actually shaped and formed."
"All three authors (also William Placher & Brian Blount) are seasoned scholars and wrestle with how the Bible is to be best utilized as the authority for Christian belief. Another great starting point."
"A brave book by a conservative evangelical OT scholar who argues that, in deed, the OT builds on an ancient Near-Eastern world view. Though not denying an infallible Bible, Enns hopes to educate us that understanding Biblical revelation only makes sense in admitting it's incarnational nature, divine truth revealed through the prism of real human stuff."
"To go with Enns above. Sparks, also, is an evangelical OT scholar steeped in knowledge of the ancient Near-Eastern world. Are evangelicals truly starting to "constructively" deal with the issues of modern critical scholarship in a non-evasive way?"
"Another honest, candid work by Sparks that admits the dark, troublesome passages of the Bible while attempting to retrieve it's authority and validity for contemporary believers. If I were still an evangelical, I would be consulting this kind of pastoral scholarship to preserve my integrity."
"Smith, now an "evangelical" Catholic, challenges the notion of evangelicalism's biblicism and inerrancy, concluding it is essentially incoherent. The splintering of evangelicalism into a vast spectrum of diverse biblical interpretations demonstrates the bible cannot be monolithically squeezed into a rigid box. An excellent sociological contribution."
"An older work by a world class OT scholar who attempts to debunk the fundamentalist position while validating the modern critical approach that has given us many insights that disprove inerrancy. Probably will need to find this used. Also see his "Beyond Fundamentalism". I am surprised these are out of print."
"Dunn is a pioneering moderate & maverick evangelical scholar. Very interesting is his debate with evangelical scholar R. Nicole on the issue of inerrancy and also his intriguing chapter "Was Jesus a Liberal? Was Paul a Heretic?". I admire Dunn as an evangelical who is honest and brave enough to challenge cherished traditionalist ideology."
"A brief, moderate, gracious and very readable introduction to the issues. Barton writes: "Over the years a suspicion has grown in me that much of the fundamentalists' case is not simply a bad thing, but a good thing gone wrong: they point us towards important truth, but veer away from them themselves at the last moment because a doctrinaire conservatism blinds their eyes.""
"Much of the dissent of the fundamentalist's assured viewpoint of the Bible is fueled by the postmodern climate that many of us have become influenced by. Great reading for approaching the Bible through this lens."
"This does not deal with the issue of inspiration per se but is Borg's effort to retrieve the valid contribution of the Bible for contemporary times. I think he is very poor in grappling with the problematic portions of the Bible, but he does fashion a popularized interpretation of the Bible that will appeal to non-literalists. How he gets from there to here needs to be better articulated."
"A helpful survey and examination of the various approaches to the issue of Biblical inspiration and authority. A good book for understanding more clearly the issues involved in drawing one's own conclusion."
"An excellent collection of essays that elucidate the historical approaches to the issues by influential Christian theologians throughout the ages. From Origen, Aquinas, Luther to Barth, Frei and other more contemporary thinkers. Great for perspective."
"A great model of how to take a very problematic aspect of Biblical thought (vicarious, blood atonement) and by understanding the evolutionary progression of biblical revelation, develop it for a more relevant, contemporary understanding. His last chapter is excellent on an evolutionary sense of progressive revelation and why this would oddly be on this list."
"Part II "There are "600 hundred passages of explicit violence in the Hebrew Bible, 1,000 verses where God's own violent actions of punishment are described. 100 passages where Yahweh expressly commands others to kill people, and several stories where God irrationally kills or tries to kill for no apparent reason." Pallmeyer candidly asks does the Bible always get it right?!"
"For a discussion of the problematically ethical OT passages, this is another recommended resource to read with Stark above. Seibert attempts to be a bit more conciliatory with these types of passages then Stark but both attempt to "rescue" the abiding value of the Bible for the discerning faith reader."
"Ehrman utilizes textual criticism to make a case that there were many scribal errors and distortions that made their way into our present day Bible. For a conservative rebuttal see: "Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" by Timothy Paul Jones"
"Perhaps a part II to Misquoting Jesus. Ehrman writes well and distills modern scholarship understandably enough for the general reader. See how modern scholarship has challenged many of the conservative assumptions of the infallibility of the gospel writers."
"A very well written book for the general reader that details the "documentary hypothesis" of the Hebrew Bible that evidences the human side of the shaping of the Bible. What does that mean in this context? That the Bible is an amalgam of divine and human influences that we can never decisively separate because they are essentially seamless."
"Thought the NT was essentially consistent and unified throughout the various books and authors without any essential contradictions? Read this seminal work to challenge that position. But Dunn as an evangelical also sees overriding unity."
"Callahan makes the case that much of the Bible's eschatology and prophecy is just plain mistaken. E.G. many of the NT writers claimed that Christ's 2nd coming was imminent within their life time and it never came to happen. Though TC is not a Christian, many NT scholars endorse a similar position."
"Fitzmeyer, a world class NT scholar, concludes that the many "messianic" OT passages the NT writers used as pointing to Christ could not in any plain sense of meaning be seen as legitimating that claim."
"Sadly, texts from the Bible, literally interpreted, have fueled depraved acts of violence, racism and murder. Get a glimpse of the historical examples. Can't we own up to the fact that our religious texts (the Hebrew Bible, NT, Koran) contain anomalies that frankly should be acknowledged and renounced?"
"I end with a few works by debunking enthusiasts who feel the Bible is great target practice for demonstrating absurdity and hypocrisy. These are definitely a mixed bag but worth a perusal. After all, who is going to point out the Bible's inconsistencies? Josh McDowell or Gleason Archer?"
"Again, a very mixed bag and some of it just plain overblown. Yet this has some validity to consider in the bigger picture. There remains to be produced a work in this genre that is fully abreast with current biblical scholarship and still offers a nuanced and constrained subversive critique."
"One of the better books by the growing legion of neo-atheists. This is a compilation of essays by many contributors, many of whom discuss irreconcilable problems with the Bible. I imagine this genre of writing will rapidly increase in the near future."
"An intriguing book by a biblical scholar who writes that the Bible is largely irrelevant to a modern world. Nuts? I think not completely. Modern notions of democracy, womans rights, anti-slavery etc. etc. are not found in the Bible. So do we give them up in fidelity to Biblical authority? Then maybe militant Islam makes sense!"