A Library Online–Or At Least Onshelves

A pastor friend just sent me email with a wonderful problem:

I’m currently near the beginning of a 6 month Sabbatical, enjoying it and looking forward to more.  My church is graciously offering to help pay for some pastor education, and I may use some of this to buy commentaries.  Not sure yet what the commentary budget is, but maybe 1,000-1,400… So, do you have any input for me?

How wonderful it would be if more pastors had this problem!

For guidance, I pointed this pastor both to my own recommended commentary lists and to the more current advice from Denver Seminary (OT list and NT list), which is updated each January. (Which means new lists are near!)

This pastor’s email also reminded me how grateful I am to finally have my own commentaries out of boxes and onto shelves. Now with only a little climbing I can find all my favorite books!

Okay, reportedly that’s actually the Cincinnati Library at about 1899. My own library is perhaps a little more modest:

But now that I have the shelves loaded with books, I’m a happy little scholar. On the left is mostly Bible commentaries and theological works, with a special focus on the topic of the church:

On the right is a mixture, including Christian living, apologetics, missions, literature, history, Bibles, and reference books:

My library plans are still not quite done. I’d like to add a mirror on the back wall. I’d also like to cut out the top panel of the door, replacing it with a decorative screen that lets light and air through. But it’s come a long way since the early hours of demolition and construction:

More important than the shelves are the books resting on them. Here are some of my favorite shelves, with some of my favorite books.

OT (1): Introduction, theology, and commentaries. A favorite: Gordon Wenham on Leviticus.

OT (2): Commentaries. A favorite: Robert Chisholm on 1 & 2 Samuel is ideal for Sunday School teachers (and his Judges/Ruth volume looks ideal for preachers).

OT (3): Commentaries. Favorites: Bruce Waltke and James Houston on the Psalms are superb (but don’t address every psalm) and I’ve used Tremper Longman on Proverbs a lot.

OT (4): Commentaries. Favorites: Andrew Steinmann on Daniel and G. K Beale and D.A. Carson’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.

NT (1): Commentaries. Favorites: R.T. France on Matthew and Robert Stein on Mark.

NT (2): Commentaries. A favorite: David Garland on 1 Corinthians.

NT (3): Commentaries. A favorite: Douglas Moo on Galatians.

NT (4): Commentaries. Favorites: William Mounce on the Pastoral Epistles, and Gareth L. Cockerill and Peter T. O’Brien on Hebrews.

NT theology, Jesus, parables, Paul. Favorites: I have found both I. Howard Marshall’s and George Eldon Ladd’s NT theologies helpful.

NT theology, NT use of OT, biblical interpretation. Favorites: Grant Osborne’s Hermeneutical Spiral and R.T. France’s Jesus and the Old Testament were both influential for me.

Biblical interpretation, early church historical nd. A favorite: O.M. Bakke’s When Children Became People: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity.

Church history, history of Bible, systematic theology. Favorites: The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzàlez and The Story Behind the Versions by Rodney Yoder.

Theology random (covenant, salvation, missions, etc), ecclesiology. A favorite: The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission by John Dickson.

Ecclesiology, baptism, membership, discipline, eldership. Favorites: John S. Hammett (baptism and Lord’s supper), Everett Ferguson (history of baptism), and Alexander Strauch (eldership) are all worth consulting.

Gender roles, divorce/remarriage, sexual purity, eschatology, money. Favorites: Kingdom Come by Sam Storms and Neither Poverty Nor Riches by Craig Blomberg.

Hearing God, decision making, spiritual disciplines, pain. A favorite: The Power of the Powerless by Christopher de Vinck is a beautifully-written story that touched me deeply.

And my shelf of Chesterton, Lewis, and Muggeridge–most of which I read to good benefit during my years in college. My wife and oldest daughter have helped batter a few of these books since, which makes me even happier.

Some of you have much more impressive libraries. That’s wonderful! We need people who have read far more than I do, and more widely.

Others of you likely wonder how I’ve read so many books. Well, I haven’t. Most of the books in these photos I’ve never read. Quite a few I’ve just opened as needed, for reference. Some I’ve never really opened. Many I dream of reading through—some for personal enjoyment and some because I think I really need to in order to be equipped to serve in the church as well as I should. I think the Lewis shelf is the only shelf pictured that I’ve read fully. Oops, I haven’t read The Quoteable Lewis through, so that’s that.

This past year has been especially bad for reading, what with moving and all. My main serious reading has been Cockerill’s Hebrews commentary, which I’ve been reading with a Bible open beside, devotionally and for sermon prep. Only about a dozen pages to go! It’s been a good companion.

May God guide all our reading in the coming year, for his glory and for the growth of his people.

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. (2 Timothy 4:13 ESV)

Do you have a library? What books (or parchments) do you especially value? Do you have reading goals for the coming year? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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10 thoughts on “A Library Online–Or At Least Onshelves”

  1. Unfortunately my reading pattern is off-again/on-again. I remember a librarian friend saying a long time ago, “If you wait to read until you have the time, you’ll never read.” How true! So, I am thankful for the times when I have a sermon to prepare and have to turn to the commentaries to get a handle on what the Scripture is about.

    My “library” is the sewing room, which is also a spare bedroom. The shelves are double and triple stacked. We accumulate books but never seem to let them go once we have them. Unfortunately many of the books that looked good enough to purchase have never been completely read through.

    Thanks for the suggestion of having a book reading list for 2017. That would certainly give a little more direction and incentive. And something more to talk about during coffee times than the weather or sports.

    1. Life has seasons, and some seasons are more suited to action than to reading. But it is all too easy for me to not seize the time I do indeed have. Then when I do turn to my books, I am often torn between the books I really should read (and truly want to, for long-term growth) and the books that may be easier to read and give more immediate satisfaction.

      But what a wonderful problem to have more books than we can read. May we find grace to focus our minds on the books that will draw us closest to God and prepare us best for service!

      Blessings to you and Joyce this Christmas season!

  2. Well put! We certainly are blessed to have so many books and the freedom to choose which we will read. May God guide our choices.

  3. Ahhh…I love pictures of a good book shelf. This makes me long to read more, though my reading life does not contain many commentaries.

    The past year I’ve done very little reading for myself. Nearly all of my reading has been to preread books for my children. They have already read the books on our bulging shelves so I’ve turned to our public library. But I’m not comfortable giving them books that I haven’t read first.

    Though I’ve missed reading just for me, the good part is that I’ve discovered lots of new-to-me juvenile and young adult fiction books that are enjoyable and well-written. Wasn’t it Lewis that said that if a children’s book wasn’t good enough to read as an adult, it wasn’t worth giving to a child? (Not a direct quote.)

    And I too can complain about not enough time to read, but don’t use the minutes I do have in profitable reading. When I get into an absorbing book I find all sorts of spare minutes – not that it is always good to be ignoring the household with my nose in a book.
    Gina

    1. Thanks for taking time to comment, Gina. And wow! I can imagine pre-reading books for your children might be a full-time occupation. I envisioned doing the same for our children, but I confess that dream has long since evaporated. My wife helps them bring home dozens of library books at a time (in Iowa it was up to 99 in each trip!). She does a pretty good job of filtering them by quick scan, though sometimes we discover we’ve brought one home that we must later remove from circulation. If my last year has been slow in reading, my girls certainly haven’t slowed down. So, as you suggested, sometimes as parents we reach goals by helping our children grow.

      Happy and wise reading to you and yours in 2017!

  4. Question: On the OT shelf 4, can you tell me a bit about the Daniel commentary? Author, publisher, which view of the end times it features? Thanks.

    1. Hi Tamar. Thanks for the question!

      That Daniel commentary is written by Andrew Steinmann, who has written several other OT commentaries as well as a very technical book on Bible chronology and dates. The publisher is Concordia Publishing House, a Lutheran company. It has been a while since I read from this book, and I never read the whole thing through, but I think I’m correct in saying that Steinmann takes a view of prophecy that fits well with a basically amillennial approach. Here are several things I like about this commentary:
      * It avoids a dispensational premillenial approach, which can be hyper-literalistic on the one hand while also rather arbitrarily inserting a long gap in the middle of Daniel’s vision of 70 weeks. (In fact, Steinmann argues strongly against DP, too strongly for some readers, though I appreciate his observations.)
      * It also avoids and critiques a theologically liberal approach, which is skeptical of supernatural prophecy and therefore usually concludes that Daniel was not written by Daniel but by someone(s) much later, in the time of the Grecian empire. This dual critique (against DP and critical scholars) honors the text well on its own terms.
      * It directly addresses the tough questions of date of writing and chronology of prophecy, unlike some other play-it-safe evangelical commentaries that focus more narrowly on theological lessons we can learn from the book.
      * Yet it is also theological and Christ-centered–clearly a Christian commentary written by a believer, not by a Jew or by a mere academic. Thus, for example, it often notes how passages from Daniel are used in the NT, as well as OT parallel passages. And in summarizing the theological themes of Daniel it draws implications for readers today.
      * It is readable, with clear sentences, large print, useful diagrams, generous indexes. And it is well bound.

      Non-Lutheran readers will find the traditional Lutheran focus on law and grace a bit quirky, but it is not too distracting.

      I’ll end by pasting here some thoughts from my commentary web page: “A clear conservative consensus for a technical Daniel commentary has not yet developed. Given complex questions of authorship, date, genre, and prophecy, this is hardly surprising. Some of the best volumes (Collins, Goldingay) reflect liberal assumptions. Others are dated (Baldwin, Young). In my own library, I like the conservative, Christocentric, and semi-technical Steinmann (Concordia Commentary, 2008, 628pp. Daniel (Concordia Commentary) ) better than either Longman (fuzzy on crucial points of debate) or Young (dated), and am happy to note that Fee and Stuart agree, choosing Steinmann—along with Duguid (sermonic) and Miller (best of Dispensationalism)—as the most technical volume on their latest list. Lucas (Apollos, 2002, 359pp.) is another popular recent choice, though clearly less conservative (and technical) than Steinmann. Perhaps Wooden (below) will gain widespread conservative praise?”

  5. Thanks for sharing, Dwight!

    How delightful was that? I’m chuckling here as I write/type this.

    I love books – the hope they bring, the wisdom they impart (hopefully), etc.

    I’m glad I found your site, I’ll be sure to check more out.

    I have a growing library, too. I sure could have used you in the beginning when I went a little mad, and impulsively bought around 70 or more books on all manner of topics in Christianity – I have lucked out, however, and most are going to be OK for years to come (crossing fingers, as I’ve only given this a cursory estimate).

    Another site you may be interested in, and feel free to edit this out, is Bill Muehlenberg’s Culture Watch. A blog by a theology professor, now retired. Although I don’t know whether I agree with everything, which seems to be a common thread in Christian circles, the foundational beliefs are the same.

    Best to you and yours – and keep blogging!

    You are very good at it (must have been an “ace” English teacher)

    Deb

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