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

51 Responses to Books Every Seminary Graduate Should Have Read

  1. Nick September 13, 2006 at 2:57 pm #

    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. Jimmy Stanfield September 13, 2006 at 4:45 pm #

    You forgot about Jimmy Stanfield’s A Biblical Perspective On Prosperity.

  3. jimhamilton September 13, 2006 at 4:52 pm #

    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)

  4. miriam September 13, 2006 at 5:11 pm #

    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

  5. Bryan L September 13, 2006 at 5:25 pm #

    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

  6. -mike- September 13, 2006 at 6:43 pm #

    Where’s Anselm and Aquinas?

  7. Jimmy Stanfield September 13, 2006 at 8:41 pm #

    Mike-Canterbury and Paris

  8. Chad K September 13, 2006 at 9:20 pm #

    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

  9. Will September 13, 2006 at 10:09 pm #

    This is a great list for those in the Reformed-Calvinist tradition. Those of us from a Arminian-Wesleyan perspective would have some different texts in our lists : )

  10. jimhamilton September 13, 2006 at 10:19 pm #

    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

  11. House on the Rock Family Ministries September 13, 2006 at 10:30 pm #

    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!

  12. Ched September 13, 2006 at 11:03 pm #

    Seeing this list of theological titans makes me feel like a theological and literary plebian.

  13. Peter September 14, 2006 at 6:38 am #

    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).

  14. talmid1 September 14, 2006 at 8:00 am #

    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.

  15. interested reader September 14, 2006 at 9:38 am #

    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).

  16. Mickey Klink September 14, 2006 at 11:55 am #

    how can you not list karl barth?

  17. Matt H. September 14, 2006 at 2:07 pm #

    Or Paul Tillich? Doesn’t everyone pull out The Courage to Be for daily devotional reading?

  18. R. Copeland September 14, 2006 at 4:37 pm #

    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.

  19. poopemerges September 14, 2006 at 9:55 pm #

    I like the way you think! How about a woot woot for reformed baptist (the perspective not the denomination.

  20. Mark September 15, 2006 at 3:02 pm #

    Dr. Hamilton,

    You neglected the profoundly biblical, rigorously exegetical, historically reliable, and immensely practical “Good Morning, Holy Spirit.”

  21. Jimmy Stanfield September 15, 2006 at 7:03 pm #

    Mark….hahahahaha!

  22. Nick September 15, 2006 at 7:17 pm #

    Where’s Pelagius for improves self-esteem?

  23. Nick September 15, 2006 at 7:17 pm #

    Where’s Pelagius for improved self-esteem?

  24. chad September 18, 2006 at 8:52 pm #

    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…

  25. lightcontrast September 19, 2006 at 9:10 am #

    Where can you find a compilation of the dead sea scrolls?

  26. jimhamilton September 22, 2006 at 8:20 pm #

    Lightcontrast,

    This edition of the DSS gives you both Hebrew and English: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Sea-Scrolls-Study/dp/0802844936/sr=8-1/qid=1158974334/ref=sr_1_1/104-9457921-2147120?ie=UTF8&s=books.

    Enjoy,

    JMH
    .

    Enjoy,

    JMH

  27. jimhamilton September 22, 2006 at 8:22 pm #

    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

  28. Debbie Wimmers September 26, 2006 at 12:56 pm #

    In the apochyropha, you’re referring only to the Old Testement not the new. I like Maccabbees the best.

  29. Leslie September 26, 2006 at 7:44 pm #

    that intro by Packer in “the death of death”… wow!

  30. lightcontrast October 2, 2006 at 8:34 pm #

    Thanks, Jim.

  31. bigham November 13, 2007 at 3:37 pm #

    dude…
    how could you leave out “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988”?

    -David

  32. Jonny Keen August 20, 2009 at 5:48 am #

    I noticed there were no books on prayer and fasting mentioned. We come to know the Lord in a state of prayer.

  33. Hilary Darmousseh September 21, 2009 at 4:11 pm #

    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.

  34. talmid1 January 17, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    What about the Rabbinics? The cultural and contextual background from the source is missing in most christian seminaries.

  35. Rob June 16, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    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.

    • JMH June 16, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

      All great suggestions! Just trying to keep the list short . . .

  36. Joseph Justiss June 16, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    I was hoping for some Sailhamer 😉

    • JMH June 16, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

      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 . . .

  37. Ant Writes October 20, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola….I read it in seminary, and then consequently left seminary….

  38. Sandra February 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    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!

    • Ant Writes February 29, 2012 at 12:16 am #

      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

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] So, what am I really getting at?  The fact is, as a seminary student, I do not feel that there are very many professors who focus on the overall development of my person, especially the spiritual aspects of my character.  While I know that they care about my character, and I’m aware that in a crisis I would be able to discuss things with them, I think we’ve got it backwards when character development isn’t the primary focus of seminaries training ministers of the gospel.  The lack of focus on character development was brought into clear light a few weeks ago for me when I saw the discussions concerning Christianity Today’s top 50 books that have influenced evangelicalism.  What followed on the blogosphere was a plethora of posts from many authors, and seminary professors, discussing what they think the most important 50 books should have been.  Even prior to this was another discussion amongst bloggers concerning books that they think every seminary student should have completed reading prior to graduation.  (As an example, see for his renown for a post by Dr. Jim Hamilton, assistent professor of NT at SWBTS on his take of “books every seminary graduate should have read”)  Before I make my point, I’d like to defend Dr. Hamilton.  I know him personally, and this is not meant to take pot-shots at him any more than any other professor.  The fact is, he has a blog that I read, and he is one of many who I believe share his sentiments.  Because he has publicly “published” his list, I’m interacting with it.  I have talked many times with this professor, and was a member of the small group that he led in our 1 credit hour class on Spiritual Formation.  I know that Dr. Hamilton, perhaps even more than most other professors, is genuinely interested in Christian character development in the lives of his students.  However, his list of books betrays that this is not an essential element of a seminary education.  For this, I am deeply grieved. […]

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