Books Every Seminary Graduate Should Have Read

Let me first say that I did not have all the books listed below read by the time I finished seminary (either time, that is, some I didn’t read until after I was out of school altogether). Let me also say that I have not read every word of all of the books listed below. For instance, while I have read substantial portions of Calvin’s Institutes, I have not read the whole thing. So my apologies to you if you think that makes me a hypocrite. I still think the list is useful.

This is a list of books that I think a person who is theologically educated should have read or be planning to read.

Primary Texts

Bible

The whole Bible in the student’s mother tongue (sadly, this should not be assumed).

The whole New Testament in Greek

Genesis, Joshua, Joel, Jonah, and Ruth in Hebrew (or another substantial cross section)

Apocrypha and Jewish Literature

All of the Dead Sea Scrolls

1 Enoch

All of the Apocrypha

Early Christian Literature

The Apostolic Fathers (1 Clement, 2 Clement, the seven letters of Ignatius, Polycarp to the Philippians, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the Didache, Barnabas, Hermas, Diognetus, Papias) in English. See Michael W. Holmes, ed., The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations

Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History

Theology and History

Irenaeus, On the Apostolic Preaching

Athanasius, On the Incarnation

Basil, On the Holy Spirit

Augustine, Confessions

Dante, Inferno

Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers

The Baptist Confession of 1689

Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World

Modern Secondary Literature

Bible and Interpretation

Stephen Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, NSBT (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2003).

George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).

Thomas R. Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2001).

Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ

James M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology

Theology, History, and Ministry

Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther

Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

J. I. Packer, Knowing God

John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad

David Wells, No Place for Truth

Join the Conversation

51 Comments

  1. Do you really think every seminary student (as opposed to some, which I would agree with) needs to read through all of the Dead Sea Scrolls (let alone other massive chunks of 2nd Temple Judaism–though I would admit that if one wants to get involved in the justification and NPP debate, this is mandatory)? Is Qumran really that relevant to the NT writers at the end of the day, especially for pastors preaching in non-academic settings? I’m not being confrontational here–this just surprises me. And I would be very open to arguments/reasons you have on why every seminary student should devote time to this. Thanks! (maybe substituting Gathercole’s “Where Is Boasting” would be a helpful solution!)

  2. Nick,

    I think it is healthy and wise to read primary sources. What is healthy and wise for some is healthy and wise for all, isn’t it?

    I’m really just following the advice given in C. S. Lewis’s essay introducing a translation of Athanasius’s “On the Incarnation.” You might call the Lewis essay, “On the reading of old books,” but in the edition I have there isn’t a title.

    I think that if more evangelical pastors and ministers read more primary sources, we would be less captive to the spirit of the age.

    For men with chests!

    JMH

    (See Lewis’s little book, The Abolition of Man)

  3. Jim,

    I would have to respectfully disagree that what is healthy and wise for some is not is not always healthy and wise for all. That’s a faulty logic. Medications that preserve the health of adults can kill babies. The amount of sleep that is healthy and wise for children is likely laziness or a symptom of illness in adults. You may be right about the reading you’re suggesting, but be careful you use right logic to support it. What is wise and healthy for one part of the body is not always wise and healthy for another part of the body; they are, after all, different parts.

    Thanks for your blog,
    miriam

  4. Miriam,
    I think Jim’s logic works here because this isn’t a list of books every Christian should have read, it’s a list “Seminary Graduate Should Have Read”. This list is for a specific part of the body, those called to teach. It’s not something for children or those who are still on milk.
    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  5. Hi Jim,

    I appreciate your blog and book list. I think a teacher of the Word should be well studied in the area of extra-biblical literature. I am teaching through Revelation and I can’t tell you how many times I have been drawn to extra-biblical literature for a better understanding the book (as well as Scripture itself). I am not suggesting that extra-canonical literature is on the same level as Scripture or over Scripture, but it has been very helpful and insightful.

    Chad K

  6. Mike,

    Hey, thanks for pointing out the oversight!

    No list is perfect. I haven’t read any Aquinas. But I have read Anselm’s “Why God Became Man,” and that needs to be on the list.

    Thanks!

    JMH

  7. You have done some excellent work in recommending this must reads. Let’s remember … those of us who have graduated from a seminary … have sometimes been accused of graduating from a “cemetery!” Let’s keep looking for the intersections between theology and reality. We need to be a student of our culture as well! God bless!

  8. What about non religious works dealing with morals and ethics, many of which explore concerns arsing in the modern world not directly adressed by religion (file sharing anyone?) Personally I like Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons, but Nagel is always a good choice too (or Stephenson or Railton or Rawls or Korsgaard).

  9. I hate to sound even more complex. Each school advocates certain theological foundations. In light of that the list presented is inadequate and cannot be applied across the board.
    Emphasis should be on what the Hebrew Scriptures, gospels, epistles espouse juxtaposed with other resources in print or in progress presented for daily living in the here and now. For that is what God is about.

  10. This list is far from complete and certainly points to the theological presuppositions of the author. You have included nothing from Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Gustavo Gutierrez, James Cone, Francis Schaeffer, or others who (at the very least ) have voices that should be considered (whether we agree with them or not).

  11. As an engineer who has not been to seminary, lists like this give me a target valuable list at which to aim. (I’m glad to see that I’ve already read some and others are on my to read list.) Even I understand that it not intended to be either exclusive or comprehensive. Appreciate it for what it is and build on it for your own personal list. Thanks Dr. Hamilton.

  12. I am two thirds of the way through seminary. I have been required to read, from your list, 3 books plus half of the OT. At that rate, it would certianly be quite a challenge to get through this list on top of the required reading by the end of seminary. Am I being required to read the wrong books…

  13. Chad,

    Sorry for the slow response. I think all of us profs face the dilemma of having too little time with our students to have them read everything they need to read. So I see this list as one that we can be working on as we seek to keep our minds on the big things that matter.

    Hope this helps!

    JMH

  14. Thank you for the list. I love studying God’s word. My husband and I led Bible studies in college. Now I have nothing to do, hopefully we’ll be a part of or lead another study soon once we find a church here. I was considering tackling Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologaie. But I’m definitely going to keep your list in mind. I’m always looking for material to read.

  15. What about apologetics? Sproul, Frame, Craig, Plantinga?
    Any more reformers? Zwingli? Knox?
    Spurgeon?!? Any baptist List (or anyone “reformed”) NEEDS Spurgeon.
    What about Vos’ Biblical Theology to supplement the two NT theologies?
    How about Alllison’s Historical Theology?
    Worldview studies? Pearcey? Schaeffer?
    Trinity studies? Letham’s The Holy Trinity is amazing.
    And what about Piper? Desiring God is a MUST for anyone going into ministry/anyone who goes to church!

    Just a few thoughts.

    1. I would put his essay “The Messiah in the Hebrew Bible” on there, but I didn’t have a place for essays . . . Also his article in BBR with “Creation” in the title – the one on Gen 49, Num 24, and Deut . . .

  16. First of all there are 66 books in the Bible and it is enough to try to read and understand those. The bible tells us to study to show ourselves approved and to rightly divide the word of God. Our job is to preach the good news. Now would you have told Paul he need to read the dead sea scrolls? would you have told Peter he need to read those books? No Our job is to preach the Good News and to bring others to Christ. It doesn’t matter what you know, how much you know if you can not reach people where they are at. God wants spiritual fruit not religious nuts!

    1. I would be inclined to agree, however, the apostles didnt have seminaries. In fact, even though I’m a seminary graduate, I believe cemetary…er..seminary has the tendency to cause you to LOSE you faith. Seminaries are the Greek way of education. The Christian way was to live with the people and imitate the apostle. (any person who planted churches or spread the gospel was an apostle…a missionary)
      They were taught the gospel and were shown how to plant more dhurches.
      The book “Paul’s Way or The Seminary Way?” by Gene Edwards explains a LOT. He gives away an edited version for free that you can access here:
      http://minus.com/m8OwQjjCt

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