This list arose from several conversations in which people admitted they did not know of any female scholars in NT scholarship. I made a quick list of female scholars in the NT field to act as a reference point for those conversations. A few caveats: the list is not meant to be exhaustive. The selected works, for example, are only a part (a very small part in some cases) of their contributions to academia. I also did not include deceased scholars as there is a plethora of active, excellent female scholars which can be cited here. Feel free to take this list and make it better–it’s meant as a starting point rather than an exhaustive directory.
The list below consists of ~120 female NT scholars, their interests, and 2-3 of their published works. Their names include links to their faculty pages when available. The list is in alphabetically order sorted by the very last name. This list purposefully skews towards English works, but I have included several German scholars as well with Wayne Coppin’s helpful list (see below). Clearly, the list lacks Spanish, French, Italian, etc language scholars; again, this is just meant as a starting point rather than a directory.
See also the very helpful and regularly updated Women Biblical Scholars blog. For further information on German scholars along with some translations of selected works, see Wayne Coppins’ own list which includes many German scholars here.
As someone with even a cursory interest in researching the Bible, you’ve probably come across John Dyer’s little website BestCommentaries.com (BC). BC attempts to list and rank commentaries on the Bible in order “to help students at all levels to make good, informed decisions about which commentaries they should purchase.” Dyer knows that “scores and ratings alone” can’t tell the whole story, but he hopes “the combined resources available through this site points [students or pastors] in the right direction.”
In reality, BC points (1) male students or pastors in the (2) American, (3) Evangelical, (4) reformed, (5) conservative direction.
A few caveats. BC’s current state is not entirely Dyer’s fault since ratings are crowd-sourced, and it may not be what he originally envisioned. It also should be noted that there is some value in doing exactly what BC does now for various reasons, purposes, and audiences. Dyer’s website is also as far as I can tell the best database of somewhat current and upcoming English commentaries. The labels technical, pastoral, etc are also generally helpful. It also gives a good idea of the types of commentaries conservative Americans tend to prioritize, and it is certainly helpful when looking for a comprehensive list of commentaries on a particular book even if the rating system is flawed.
I should briefly also note how I think commentaries might be ranked or, better, analyzed. In general, I think commentaries should be ranked according to how well they perform their five primary jobs: (1) give the reader a better historical understanding of the world in which the text was produced and (2) in which the first audiences resided; (3) interact substantially with the original text; (4) give some attention to what the text might mean to modern readers (e.g., through reception history or theological reflection); (5) add something new either through new evidence or new methods. All commentaries attempt to do these jobs. For example, even the most devotional of commentaries will highlight the historical nature of a particular passage.
So what’s wrong with BC?
I’m glad you asked. I have four major problems with the site.
1. The methodology is flawed.
The methodology is straight-forward. The average rating from users, journals, and featured reviewers is complied (x). The amount of reviews (y) is compiled with more weight given to a reviewer who gives ratings for more works. In other words, if someone reviews 30 books, their reviews of those books counts more than someone who reviews just one book. Finally, users can create a library on the site and include whatever books they desire. The amount of times a given commentary appears in users’ libraries (z) is added to the ratings. So, a commentary’s score = x + (y/10) + (z/10). Carson’s John commentary has the highest score (14.91) which is converted too a 100 and other commentaries are averaged down from that.
We are told the methodology weights academic reviews of works that many people may not own, but it is not clear how this works or what sources are considered academic. For example, is RBL considered more academic than Carson’s list? Is John Piper more academic than Jeremy Pierce (featured reviewer, PhD, Syracuse), and how is that determined?
Since this methodology relies on the popularity of certain commentaries, the measurements are really showing us which commentaries most people surveyed are using. As shown below, the surveyed subjects are largely white males who are reformed, conservative, American, and evangelical.
Best commentaries isn’t showing readers which commentary is best, but which commentaries are popular among white American evangelical men with a large bent towards Reformed traditions.
The site’s name instructs the reader they will be getting rankings of the best commentaries, not the most popular ones in certain circles.
To highlight this flawed methodology further, we need to look at who these featured reviewers are, when they reviewed these commentators, and for whom they reviewed them.
2. Featured reviewers are homogeneous, dated, and write for specific audiences.
To show what I mean, I’ve analyzed here the featured reviewers which are given more weight in the ratings. Here we can see this algorithm at work. By homogeneous, I mean largely white American, male, evangelical, conservative, and reformed. By dated, I mean simply that the reviews listed are not recent and so they cannot rate highly newer commentaries.
First, nearly all reviews are given 5 stars. I assume Dyer’s reasoning is that only X number of commentaries are recommended, therefore they should be counted as a 5 star rating. In reality, this actually gives a ton of weight to the featured reviews. Not only is the commentary given extra weight because it is reviewed at all, but it is given 5 stars which bumps it to the top of the list. Very rarely is any other rating given.
Second, nearly all featured reviewers are reformed evangelicals who are recommending commentaries for (reformed evangelical) pastors. Though some cursory attention is given to non-American commentaries, the vast majority recommend the same commentaries but, and this is key, not because those commentaries are the best, but because those commentaries are what they (as American evangelicals etc) use.
I went through all of the featured reviewers on the BC website, gathered their biographies, and listed them below. To give you a feel for the reviewers, I’ve created this table and give more information about the reviewers below the table. If the recommendations are pulled from a book or blog, I listed the publication dates.
D.A. Carson (2007)
Theological students, ministers
Derek Thomas (2006)
RTS, ARC/PCA, Ligonier
Matt Perman (2006)
Desiring God, Southern (MDiv)
Serious students of Scripture
Jim Rosscup (2003)
Pastors (see note)
Joel Green (2015)
Puritan Reformed TS
John Glynn (2007)
Students and pastors
Keith Mathison (~2008)
Ligonier, Reformation BC.
Philip J Long (2012)
Grace Bible College
Robert Bowman Jr
Tim Challies (2013)
Pastor, blogger, TGC
Tremper Longman III (2007)
Westmont, Fuller, ETS
Pastors, students (see note)
We can see a few details from this table. First, I assume that these featured reviewers are weighted the same, meaning there is no difference between Carson and Chailles. Second, the majority of these reviews are over ten years old, and do not consider newer English commentaries. Third, the vast majority of reviewers are American, evangelical, and conservative. Many are also reformed; every reviewer is male, and most are white.
The algorithm displays a type of circular reasoning as seen in the graph above. The (American, evangelical, etc) reviewers commend commentaries that are popular in their own circles or commentaries that fit best within their audience’s use (e.g., Reformed churches) which, because they are recommended at all, ranks them highly on BC. Therefore, the best commentaries are those used by select reviewers who use commentaries for their own purposes (preaching, etc). Because most of the recommendations are for Reformed, evangelical pastors, the commentaries approved are for that audience. Some reviewers like Rosscup specifically commend those commentaries that he deems “show belief in the reliability of biblical statements” which means he recommends conservative commentaries over others.
Best Commentaries is less a ranking of “best commentaries” and more a ranking of commentaries used by American evangelicals, weighted heavily toward Reformed evangelicals.
To show this methodology at work, let’s look at the commentaries on John as an example. Köstenberger’s John commentary which relies far too heavily on Carson’s John commentary is rated second overall which, though it did not receive great reviews outside evangelical circles, is expected. At the very bottom of the rankings, we find Bultmann who wrote the most influential commentary ever written on John. Of course, we shouldn’t expect Bultmann’s commentary to be “the best” commentary on John since it is outdated and uses a questionable methodology, but it changed the face of Johannine studies and deserves a higher ranking than dead last!
As an example of American-centric ratings, we find Gary Burge’s NIV Application Commentary is ranked over Andrew Lincoln’s commentary. William Hendricksen’s John commentary is very highly ranked despite being sorely outdated. Richard Burridge’s little commentary (Daily Bible) is not listed at all.
Again, the popularity of certain commentaries within theological circles is what is being measured here.
3. BC prioritizes non-specialist reviewers for specialist works.
Other reviews are anyone who can register and write a short review. Though on BC’s own users count in the ratings, other reviews from CBD, Amazon, and Goodreads included on the commentary’s individual page. BC’s own users may or may not have any credentials or give any real reason for their ratings, and it quickly becomes the Yelp of commentaries. Looking at Craddock’s Luke commentary (which I highly recommend) we find two reviews, one positive and one negative. Because only two people rate Craddock, it falls to the bottom of the ranked ratings. James R. Edwards’s Luke commentary is given 5 stars from a BC reviewer who says only “A great addition to the Pillar series. A fine and well written commentary on the Gospel of Luke.” Unless one is a Lukan scholar or owns the book, you’d never know that Edwards’ commentary assumes Luke uses a Hebrew source as his major source (pp.15-16) which is highly controversial.
The way the rating metrics work is that any review by a BC user is given some weight. Again, this quickly becomes a race to pick your favorite commentaries with or without any real reasons aside from “X recommended it.”
This is especially the case with works that featured reviewers or journals do not review. Take, for example, Kenneth Gangel’s John commentary (Holman). It appears in 4 users’ libraries and is given 5 stars from RBL even though the RBL review states clearly that it is not recommended: “Let us be absolutely clear at the outset by saying that this book will be of absolutely no use to the serious scholar of John—and be of only slightly more use to the lay reader seeking encouragement in her or his faith… Although this book purports to be for an adult Christian believer seeking information about her or his basic confessional documents, the gospels, it succeeds only in patronizing its audience with pabulum of quasi-pious platitudes, banal exegesis (if one may so praise this prose) and inane illustrations. In short, this volume is a condescending and, indeed, dishonest presentation of what the author purports to be the theological message of the Gospel of John, cut loose from the context of both academic scholarship of the gospel and the vast body of theological exegesis of the gospel. We can in no terms recommend this volume to the reader. ”
But BC’s methodology gives a 5 star review to the commentary because it was reviewed at all. Because of its review and because it is in some users’ libraries, we find that Gangel’s commentary is ranked above, for example, Andrew Lincoln’s commentary which was reviewed highly (but critically) by Craig Keener.
Similarly, the RBL review for Bock’s Luke commentary concludes: “No one can complain that this commentary does other than what it set out to do. And although it will be appreciated by its intended, evangelical audience, even these readers will have to look elsewhere to get the full story.” Hardly a 5 star review!
Since the weight of users’ libraries seems to outweigh critical reviews, we are left with a ranking that prioritizes popularity rather than merit, but only popularity within the circles detailed above.
4. BC prioritizes American, evangelical works
Because the weighted reviewers are American evangelicals, they recommend largely the American evangelical commentaries. This is neither bad nor good, but we should be open and honest about the rating system.
Let’s look at Luke again. Chuck Swindoll and John MacArthur are listed as higher than Judith Lieu, F. Scott Spencer, Justo González, Graham Twelftree, and Norvall Geldenhuys. In no measurable way are Swindoll and MacArthur’s commentaries “better” than those world-class scholars. Michael Wolter isn’t even listed though his commentary has received rave reviews (now in English since last year). In reality, Swindoll and MacArthur are simply more popular within the American conservative traditions. The algorithms calculates the ranking based on popularity rather than merit while also privileging American evangelicals who may or may not be specialists.
Commentaries should be ranked on their merits and contributions rather than their popularity. BC ranks commentaries based on their popularity within American evangelicalism, particularly conservative Reformed circles and, as such, does not shed any light on the “best” commentaries.
The website BC succeeds in ranking commentaries, but only in so far as they are ranked according to American evangelicals. As long as one realizes the biases within the website, one can use the website with some benefit. Dyer’s website succeeds in hosting a website with aggregated reviews of varying helpfulness. Being able to sort by year is also very helpful.
In reality, Biblical scholars desperately need a new website which only pulls reviews from journals like RBL, JSNT, etc and academic bloggers who are in some position to recommend commentaries based on what contributions they make to scholarship. Ideally, each entry should read as an annotated bibliography, containing 1-3 important points one should know about the commentary. To help fill the giant lacuna currently represented on BC, representation from minority groups, women, and mainline denominations would be especially welcome.
The question remains: should you use it? If you want to know the popular commentaries within the above circles, yes. If you want to see a reasonably up-to-date selection of works on a book/topic, then yes. Should you consult it if you want to know the “best” commentaries based on their merit and contributions? Absolutely not.
Since my thesis topic has me flipping through dozens of Luke commentaries each week, I thought I’d write a short post on which commentaries are most helpful to me and why. Commentaries have five basic jobs: (1) give the reader a better historical understanding of the world in which the text was produced and (2) in which the first audiences resided; (3) interact substantially with the Greek text; (4) give some details on how the text might apply to modern readers; (5) summarize previous scholarship while simultaneously adding something new.
It goes without saying that different commentary series do different things. Some are more theological, others are more linguistically inclined, and still others more historical in nature. All have their place (well, maybe not all). I’m going to recommend the commentaries I keep going back to. I’ve categorized them entirely subjectively, but hopefully the categories are helpful.
I recently attended the 2nd Annual German (and) Theology International Summer School in Mainz, Germany hosted by the Johannes-Gutenberg University. Sarah Prime from St. Mary’s, Twickenham gave a short review of her experience on the Historical Jesus blog. Her positive review is one reason I found and consequently enrolled in the Summer School. I can echo many things she mentioned, such as the multi-cultural nature of the students hailing from several different universities, the overall format of the school, and the weekend excursions. I do want to go into just a bit more detail with my experience for a two main reasons: 1) to give the Summer School a bit more exposure; 2) to give advice to Christian Origins/Theology students who wish to improve their German and are actively seeking a German language summer course.
Mainz (pronounced kind of like “MINE-tz”) is located in central-west Germany in the Rhine valley. From the Frankfurt airport, Mainz is about 30 minutes away by train.
Because of the excellent transport links to and from Frankfurt, international travel is very easy. In our group, most students flew into Frankfurt, but some took long-distance trains and one even took a coach from London.
As a group, we were fairly spread out throughout the city. Most were in walking distance of our classroom, but the walks varied from 20-45 mins. I was in a host family in Mainz-Kastel, located on the eastern bank of the Rhine. Walking to the morning classroom would take well over an hour for me, so I took the bus each day which took about 30 minutes depending on traffic. Weekly bus passes are cheap (17.50€ vs. 2.75€ each way) with a student discount–just make sure you apply for a student fare card (Kundenkarte) before purchasing. You will get fined 60€ if you don’t have this card!
If you are taking public transport, you will have to overcome a number of hurdles. Some of them are quite difficult and others are just bureaucratic, but all of them are frustrating. German transit is very unfriendly to non-German speakers, and bus drivers are famously gruff and unhelpful. Several students (including me) were quite frustrated with this aspect of our stay.
If you are considering going and are interested in public transit, feel free to contact me below for advice.
The summer school generally followed a consistent pattern: grammar/translation in the morning (9:15 – 12:45PM), a long break in the afternoon, and lecture in the late afternoon. I’ll detail each of these below. Here is an overview of a typical week in the school.
Grammar and Translation of Luther
Grammar and Translation of Schleiermacher
Grammar and Translation of Schleiermacher
Grammar and Translation of Goethe
Grammar and Translation of Luther
Lecture on German Theology: From Luther to Barth
Reading/Translation groups: Schleiermacher in Context
Lecture on German Theology: From Luther to Barth
Workshop: Classic German Theological Works
Grammar and Translation
Since grammar lessons are fairly straight forward, I’ll focus on our translation.
On the first day, we were given our workbook (“Einführung ins theologische Deutsch”) totaling some 130 pages! The follow authors and works were included though most were just snippets:
Martin Luther – “Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen” (1520)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – “Das Göttliche” (1783)
Friedrich Schleiermacher – Über die Religion (1799) and Der christliche Glaube nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche ins Zusammenhange dargestellt (1836)
Karl Barth – Römerbrief (1919)
Friedrich Gogarten – “Zwischen den Zeiten” (1920)
Karl Holl – Lutherrenaissance (1921)
Rudolf Bultmann – Jesus (1926)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Nachfolge (1937) and Ethik (1949)
Martin Hengel – “War Jesus Revolutionär?” (1969)
Jürgen Moltmann – Der gekreuzigte Gott (1972)
Ruben Zimmerman – “Fiktion des Faktischen” (2015)
We didn’t make it through every text during the program, but we did get through the majority of these works. After being assigned one of these texts, we separated into groups of 2-4 and worked on a paragraph or so of the text. After a while, we would reassemble and read our translations aloud to the teacher. The class had an informal feel. We all had the opportunity to ask grammatical questions to the teacher or translation group or give push-back on the given translation if need be. I was also very happy with the selected works.
Note that these texts will change from year to year depending on the interests of the incoming students. Our cohort included a large amount of NT Ph.D. students, so we focused on the NT instead of the OT. Following years will include different authors. I’m told if you register early enough, you can let the organizer’s know what your interests are, and they will plan the subject matter accordingly.
The JGU Protestant Theology department led each lecture. For the first week, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Volp taught about the historical context in German theology from Luther to Barth. In week two, Prof. Dr. Friedrich W. Horn and Dr. Eckart Schmidt introduced us to several scholars, but we focused primarily on Rudolf Bultmann and Martin Hengel. In week three, Prof. Dr. Volker Küster introduced us to intercultural theology and missiology in the 21st century. I was very happy to hear about German theology and contexts from German scholars, and I was introduced to some excellent literature in German of which I was unaware previously.
As an example, we were introduced in the first week to the different ways German scholars have interpreted Martin Luther throughout history. First, Luther’s image as a religious and social revolutionary became a nationalistic icon in Germany as a type of “heroic German” which the Third Reich famously utilized. In contrast, other German Luther scholars also saw in Luther an academic monk who though rebellious in nature was more interested in an academic debate than a revolution. These, of course, are broad-stroke summaries, but it was great to hear these types of conversations that have gone on in German scholarship.
Each participant receives a username and password in their welcome packet. This username allows you to use the internet, online resources, and check out library books. We received an introduction to these resources during our first week. Our access to electronic resources lasts several weeks, but we were able to ask for electronic access for up to a year if we wished. The online library page is somewhat frustrating–all databases are not connected to the main search engine. I was able to find most items easy enough. I should mention that eduROAM works perfectly with JGU’s internet.
Both the theological library and the central library had plenty of spaces to research. The NT room had an impressive amount of works. And, if you look hard enough, you could find a few books from Rudolf Bultmann’s personal library donated some time ago!
For 2016, the JGU summer school was 1,200€. The cost includes accommodation and tuition but not food or public transport. My host family was kind enough to provide me with food, but I don’t think other families did the same. Even so, groceries are very cheap in Germany, and lunches at the Central Mensa (cafeteria) only cost between 3.50€-4.50€ depending on what you get. Transport is relatively cheap; I paid about 75€ in total (including train tickets to and from the airport). If you’d rather walk or bike, Mainz is very bike friendly. My host offered this option, but I can barely walk and chew gum never mind negotiate traffic on a bike! Biking or walking will save around 50€.
While this amount may seem expensive (and 1,200€ is certainly nothing to sneeze at), most summer schools through the DAAD have similar costs. If you look at the Goethe Institut, most courses are more expensive for the same amount of training.
If you apply early enough, some small scholarships are distributed to help stave off costs. Many of us coming from UK universities were able to have a least a portion of costs paid by the university. Be sure to check with your supervisor before applying if money might be an issue for you.
Would I recommend this specific Summer school for Biblical studies/theology students? Yes without hesitation for three reasons.
First, we studied theological texts. Other DAAD or Goethe courses focus on spoken German whereas theological texts are written in a completely different register than conversational German. At least one friend attended a Goethe Institut course to improve their German and learned basic conversational language such as ordering beer from a pub. While this is certainly an invaluable skill, it won’t help when reading Bultmann (unless you happen to be at a German pub!).
Second, the JGU summer school wasn’t designed to be a holiday. We were all exhausted at the end of our stay and for good reason! We were there to study German, and we did so. I was very pleased the course gave more contact hours. Though the schedule itself may need some tune up, I have no doubt that they are very near the “perfect” balance of language training and lecturing.
Third, and perhaps most important, my German improved substantially. Although it is difficult to quantify my language acquisition, my knowledge of the German language and reading speed of German literature has noticeably improved. I am also more confident in my abilities to tackle German articles and translate them myself (instead of heading for Google translate immediately!).
My special thanks to Prof. Dr. Ulrich Volp and Frau Rachel Friedrich for squeezing me into the school less than 2 weeks before it began (!) and to my hosts Profs. Ruben and Mirjam Zimmerman and their lovely family for hosting me on such short notice.
Below is a sermon Fred Craddock preached the Sunday, September 16, 2001. He preached to a crowded congregation who witnessed violent terrorism on live television on Tuesday the 11th and in the following five days saw and experienced chaos and fear; hate and love in their fullest sense; bravery, blood-giving and price gouging. His sermon appears in The Collected Sermons of Fred Craddock (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2011), 165-69. The text for the sermon is Luke 13:1-9.
Mohr Siebeck has just announced David W. Chapman and Eckhard Schnabel’s new monograph The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus. Before getting to Chapman and Schnabel’s book, a quick word on the research picture of crucifixion today.
On this iteration of Life after Seminary, we continue with the religious education theme begun by Dr. Gupta, but shift it ever so slightly to current ministers.
Enter Mitchell Cooper.
I had the pleasure of being classmates with Mitchell at Gordon-Conwell, so we’re naturally pretty tight. Mitchell (M.Div., ’12; Th.M., ’13) now works in Orlando, FL with Third Millennium Ministries which, according to its website, “provides Christian education to pastors and church leaders around the world that lack sufficient training for ministry.” Mitchel”s advice and interview was a blast, and I’m thrilled I get to post his interview here.
After arriving at Gordon-Conwell, I was able to help out in the Center for the Study of Global Christianity as a student worker. If you’re not familiar with CSGC, they have been instrumental in mapping Christian mission to help the missionaries and organizations strategically approach Christian missions. They’re widely cited in CNN, BBC, and really anyone else who looks for stats on Christian demographics, particularly martyrdom. The team has written widely on the topic including the massive Atlas of Global Christianity and the World Christian Database. I was re-reading an article by Dr. Todd Johnson and Bert Hickman (J&H), and it was just too good to keep to myself. You’ll find the original article at this link, but I’ve copied the trends below. All quotes are from the article.
Since he is a professor, author, blogger, and writer, I am extremely grateful to the excellent advice he has given here. As you will see, his answers are extremely kind, encouraging, and honest. Thanks once again, Dr. Gupta!
You pushed yourself through a million challenges–Greek, Hebrew, public speaking, home sickness, cafeteria food–and finally gotten that degree. After the fancy gowns get put away and the graduation parties cease, the real world smacks you in the face.