I have nine book recommendations for your consideration. They cover a broad spectrum, so look over the list and pick the one (or hopefully more) that appeals to you.
• “Studying the Torah” by Avigdor Bonchek. I go back to it time and again because it’s so well written.
Bonchek looks at the plain meaning of the Biblical text and guides readers through good interpretive methods. The nuggets of meaning that Bonchek finds are so insightful and just resonate with truth. While the book focuses on the Torah of Hebrew Scripture, the methods Bonchek applies can be used for reading any text.
• “The Most Misused Verses of the Bible” by Eric Bargerhuff. It was just released and is already a classic.
The author takes the reader on a journey through the Bible, demonstrating how verses have been extracted from their context and misused. Without context, words have no anchorage, or, to put it another way, “a text without a context is a pretext.”
This book should be read by pastors who have the tendency to perpetuate these misused verses. If your pastor doesn’t own a copy, please buy one for him or her.
• “The Faith of the Outsider” by Frank Spina, a Seattle-based professor and wonderful teacher. The book moves through the Scripture, focusing on those who were not Jewish or Israeli but who placed their faith in the G-d of Abraham.
For those who think the Bible is only concerned with Jews, this is a wonderful corrective.
• “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus — Volume 5” by Michael Brown, who is Jewish and also a believer in Yeshua.
Brown discusses the “Oral Torah” of Judaism, known as the Talmud, to see if the claims about this text stand under examination.
• “Fresh Air” by Jack Levison, also a Seattle professor.
Levison deals with the Holy Spirit, tracing the work of the Spirit throughout the Bible. It’s controversial at times, but it will make you think about your views, whatever those may be.
• “Shocked by the Bible” by Joe Kovacs, who takes readers on a journey through the Bible and focuses on the actual text. Along the way, readers discover that much of what they thought the Bible said was never really said.
Throughout the years, there has been a tendency to “read into” the text our own ideas and interpretative thoughts, which, upon closer examination, don’t hold up to scrutiny.
• “The Nine Commandments” by David Freedman. It’s also a classic and one I make sure to read every year.
Freedman was a scholar’s scholar, and the world lost a brilliant mind with his death. His book provides a narrative story that helps to explain the famous Ten Commandments.
Reading it will give you insight that is clear and readable. While I didn’t agree with all the book proposed, I know I learned a lot in just a few pages.
• “The Jewish Gospels” by Daniel Boyarin. It’s only been out for a few years, but it’s incredible.
Boyarin is Jewish and has been doing research on the separation of the Jews and Gentiles during the time of the first century. He also has written other books, and I urge you to read anything he puts out.
In our time, Jewish academics are reclaiming the New Testament as a Jewish source, and Boyarin makes the case for understanding Yeshua in the Jewish context in which He was raised.
• “The Dead Sea Scrolls” by Craig Evans. The Dead Sea Scrolls are the greatest archeological find of the past century, and you couldn’t have a better guide than Evans, whose knowledge of first century sources is encyclopedic. Your knowledge of the DSS will be furthered by his insights.
I hope this list will guide you in your choice of solid and insightful books to read for the coming year.On Faith columnist Brent Emery can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.