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.