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Building a Basic New Testament Library

H.E. Pennypacker
The list author says: "This is a list for the general (yet adventurous) reader wishing to build a basic library for studying the New Testament. Whether one wishes to be better prepared for a church bible study or just to become foundationally more informed about the NT, these are book options that are hopefully readable, affordable and provide the most bang-for-the-buck to accomplish the task.

Part I will be devoted to full Bible one volume commentaries. Collecting two to three is ideal, not only for comparison but also because you'll often find an uneven quality from book to book in each particular volume, depending on the individual commentator. The down side to one volume commentaries is that usually you will only get a concise passage by passage commentary not a detailed verse by verse treatment. For that, you will have to move on to commentaries on individual Bible books.

Part II is similar and lists a few NT one volume commentaries. A bit cheaper and every bit the equal of full one volume Bible commentaries for our area of interest, the NT.

Part III will be for NT introductions, probably the genre that gives the most absolute bang-for-the-buck. A good NT introduction will provide great orientation to each NT book — the situation for the writing, the groups or parties pivotal to the reason for the writing, the themes of the book etc. But beyond this, often there will be a brief passage by passage discussion of the text, almost a mini-commentary.

I will also include a wide range of books to fill in the holes for acquiring a more broad understanding of NT interests and issues. Many of these books will include bibliographies for further study.

Books with issues where the conservative vs. mainline divide becomes more prominent, I will try and provide some options."
Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible
Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible
"Part I The one volume commentary I turn to the most. Neither ultra liberal or ultra conservative while also striking a balance between quality scholarship yet readability. Also includes commentaries on the Apocrypha and I Enoch."
The Oxford Bible Commentary
The Oxford Bible Commentary
"This also is a theologically moderate, one volume commentary of high caliber. A bit more technical than the Eerdmans Commentary, this will lend itself to intermediate students and above. (Covers the Apocryphal books too.) Another option at this level is the highly acclaimed New Jerome Biblical Commentary produced by top-level Catholic biblical scholars."
HarperCollins Bible Commentary - Revised Edition
HarperCollins Bible Commentary - Revised Edition
"For the mainline Christian, at a less advanced level, this is an ideal choice. Some of the commentaries are mini classics, e.g. Paul Meyer's treatment of Romans. Also, includes commentaries on the Apocryphal books. For the evangelical, the "New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition" is of high quality."
The People's New Testament Commentary
The People's New Testament Commentary
"Part II For a one volume NT commentary, this is an excellent choice. Informative and with a bit of liveliness to it, it also is highly readable for the general student, avoiding technical, academic discussion. It's moderation makes it suitable for both conservative and more mainline audiences. This is a work that wears its considerable scholarship very humbly."
A Companion to the New Testament
A Companion to the New Testament
"An equal rival to the People's NT Commentary, above. Harvey distills the insights of current NT scholarship to provide an informative treatment of each NT book, but without the complexities of technical scholarly discussion."
The Collegeville Bible Commentary: New Testament, Based on the New American Bible
The Collegeville Bible Commentary: New Testament, Based on the New American Bible
"This NT commentary, written by various Catholic NT scholars, provides a decent, entry-level orientation to the NT books based on solid scholarship. Definitely worth the price and a good starting place for those new to NT studies."
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
"For developing "hermeneutical" skills on how to interpret the various books of the Bible (and better use the commentaries above), this is one of the better treatments for the NT student. Gordon Fee handles the NT writings in a very adept way with invaluable discussion. Another option is the popular "Grasping God's Word" by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays"
The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation
The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation
"Part III Johnson is a moderately conservative Catholic scholar, who provides here a very substantial NT intro suitable for readers of all theological stripes. This is one of the most comprehensive NT intros around and often has helpful passage by passage discussion of the Biblical text."
The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 4th Edition
The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 4th Edition
"For the mainline reader, this is a highly rated NT intro. Ehrman writes in a lively and engaging style that makes the book a joy to read and provides valuable perspective. This also comes in a more concise version "A Brief Introduction to the New Testament" for the more beginning student."
An Introduction to the New Testament (Anchor Bible Reference Library)
An Introduction to the New Testament (Anchor Bible Reference Library)
"I suppose you could put this in the "classic" status of a highly regarded work by a top notch Catholic scholar (recently deceased). Brown is quite moderate and can be profitably used by students of any theological stripe though conservatives may demur at some of his methodologies."
Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology
Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology
"The list of NT introductions is seemingly endless but this remains another quality option. Some find it uneven but I recommend having several NT Intros to use in conjunction with each other. Conservatives may opt for "An Introduction to the New Testament" by Carson and Moo or the more provocative "An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation" by David DeSilva."
Engaging the New Testament
Engaging the New Testament
"I have to include this on my list of deserving NT introductions. This will attract mostly the mainline Christian and is a wonderful balance of discussion of the NT writings as well as the issues for contemporary readers coming to terms with the questions they raise."
New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel
New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel
"Misc. and More... OK, you've read the NT writings, but what is the theological significance of what they mean? A quality NT theology will help you in the process. Marshall is recommended here because he recognizes the diverse contribution to the whole from each group of NT writings. He is coming out soon with a concise version more suited for the beginning student."
New Testament Theology: Exploring Diversity and Unity
New Testament Theology: Exploring Diversity and Unity
"Another important contribution to NT theology that respects the diversity of voices found throughout the NT writings. Matera is a widely respected Catholic scholar and writes on the level best understood by the intermediate (and above) student."
The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was & Is
The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was & Is
"Tom Wright is, no doubt, one of the pioneering NT scholars of our day. Though he often writes for the scholar, he also popularizes his work for the general student. This is a good start to better understand the implications of Jesus' ministry within his original Jewish context."
Jesus: The Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary
Jesus: The Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary
"Another master Jesus scholar is Marcus Borg who writes with deftness and clarity. There is much to learn from him even if you are more conservative in your theology. An even more accessible work is his "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time". Good works for understanding Jesus within his 1st century context."
Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth (Bible in Its World)
Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth (Bible in Its World)
"For a balanced and very informed treatment of the history of research into the historical Jesus, this is a good start that shouldn't be too overwhelming for the general reader. You will gain much insight into viewing Jesus within his cultural context and also better understand the issues currently raging about the historical Jesus."
Jesus and the Gospels
Jesus and the Gospels
"For understanding Jesus and the Gospels, this is a judicious treatment by an evangelical NT scholar. Part survey, part introduction, there isn't much that isn't covered here. Includes helpful background information and as well as an introduction to critical issues."
From Pentecost to Patmos: An Introduction to Acts through Revelation
From Pentecost to Patmos: An Introduction to Acts through Revelation
"If you like Blomberg's treament of the gospels (above) then you'll want this sequel volume that deals with the rest of the NT. This is an informative, readable treatment ideal for the evangelical student."
Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters
Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters
"Gorman fleshes out all of Paul’s letters, going passage by passage, while providing a brief introduction to the situational context. There is also discussion of theological themes especially pertinent to Paul’s thought. Helpful are lists for further study. Highly recommended."
Rediscovering Paul: An Introduction to His World, Letters and Theology
Rediscovering Paul: An Introduction to His World, Letters and Theology
"This is a very user-friendly book for the general reader wishing to learn more about Paul, his letters and his theology. Written in a very fun yet informative manner. Includes discussion about the culture Paul lived in, letter writing in antiquity and much more. A great read with Gorman above."
Paul: A Beginner's Guide (Beginner's Guides)
Paul: A Beginner's Guide (Beginner's Guides)
"For an understanding of Paul and his theology, there is no up-to-date work finer than this for substance combined with readability. An excellent introduction to Paul's thought for the budding student."
What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?
What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?
"For another valuable, readable presentation of Paul's contribution to the NT, this is also recommended. Wright is a proponent of the New Perspective of Paul and you'll gain much helpful insight in understanding Paul in his original context."
Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible
Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible
"Every Bible student needs a good Bible dictionary. This may be the best overall choice in the mix. Contributors are mostly on the moderate conservative end of the spectrum. Some of the articles are very brief so save up for a good Bible encyclopedia!"
HarperCollins Bible Dictionary
HarperCollins Bible Dictionary
"The best dictionary for the mainline Christian. Conservatives may opt for the "New Bible Dictionary" by Wood, Millard, Packer, and Wiseman or the "Holman Bible Dictionary"."
The IVP Dictionary of the New Testament: A One-Volume Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship
The IVP Dictionary of the New Testament: A One-Volume Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship
"If you can't afford the excellent 4 volume set of the IVP Dictionaries of the New Testament (Dictionary of New Testament Background; Jesus and the Gospels; Paul and His Letters; & Later New Testament) then this may be the ticket for you. Essentially selects the best articles from the series."
New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: Abridged Edition
New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: Abridged Edition
"From time to time you'll want to do an important word study. This is an abridgment of the stalwart 3 volume NIDNTT but preserves the most important discussion from the original. And at a very reasonable price!"
New Testament History: A Narrative Account
New Testament History: A Narrative Account
"Knowing the historical backdrop of the NT era is an important part of understanding the NT writings. Alexander the Great, the Hasmoneans, the Herodian dynasty, the Roman Empire etc. all had pivotal roles in setting the scene for the ministries of Jesus, Paul and other key NT figures."
New Testament History
New Testament History
"An older, now classic work to accomplish the task above. This is recommended because Bruce writes history well and in a highly understandable manner for the general reader."
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament
"The very foreign and strange cultural world of the NT era is an important aspect that needs to be bridged as best as possible by us Western modern (OK, postmodern!) folk. This is a great start for a complete, albeit brief, cultural commentary on the whole NT. Some, sadly, think this is all you need to know."
Backgrounds of Early Christianity
Backgrounds of Early Christianity
"This is a now classic, updated mid-level work that is highly recommended and will go a long way in providing important information about the cultural background of the NT world. Covers the  Greek, Roman, and Jewish political, social, religious, and philosophical backgrounds necessary for a good historical understanding of the New Testament."
Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts
Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts
"A good introduction to a social-sciences approach to the Palestinian background in the time of Jesus. It's great to know biblical "manners and customs", like how a shepherd interacted with his flock but the deeper entry point of understanding a culture is through exploring the dimensions of it's socially constructed values and perceptions (e.g. honor/shame, dyadic personality, kinship etc.)"
Windows on the World of Jesus, Third Edition, Revised and Expanded: Time Travel to Ancient Judea
Windows on the World of Jesus, Third Edition, Revised and Expanded: Time Travel to Ancient Judea
"Another great introduction for the evolving student, providing a social-sciences understanding of the value system of the NT world. Contrasts side by side, how a modern American would view certain cultural values vs. someone from the Mediterranean world of the Bible."
The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul
The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul
"The early churches within the Roman world were often quite diverse, incorporating a broad strata of social life. Meek's sociological study is a classic, award winning book that should be in the library of every serious student of the Bible."
The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Background of Early Christianity
The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Background of Early Christianity
"A very good summary of the Greco-Roman backdrop of the NT. Very accessible for the general reader and maybe a great place to start before tackling Meeks above."
New Testament Background: Selected Documents: Revised and Expanded Edition
New Testament Background: Selected Documents: Revised and Expanded Edition
"Having digested at least a sampling of the broad range of extra-biblical writings contemporaneous to the NT era is recommended. One is introduced here to Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pseudepigrapha, apocalyptic writings etc. Understanding the cultural climate of the Bible has largely come about by analyzing these writings."