Favorite Books Read in 2016

I love seeing book lists by those whom I admire. Seeing what others read gives me suggestions for my own reading list which likely will be ever-growing and never completely marked off. Here are some of my favorite reads in 2016.

Philip Rousseau, Basil of Caesarea : I read this work as a part of the research for my dissertation on which I focused on Christian hospitality in late antiquity. Basil established the first soup kitchen and hospital on the heels of a horrible drought that afflicted Cappadocia. I wanted to know what made this great saint tic, and I learned so much from this biography. Basil was highly educated, came from a wealthy family, and divested himself of his inheritance to begin the soup kitchen. He had contacts throughout Empire that aided his benevolent efforts. While this was read primarily for my research, I gleaned a lot from it as a Christian.

Andrew McGowan, Ancient Christian Worship : A friend recommended this to me while she and I both researched ancient Christianity. We had several conversations about Christianity and our particular congregations. She was led to this book by recommendation, so I went here too. McGowan’s book isn’t purely scriptural, but he begins with Scripture and goes into the first few centuries of Christian history to form a basis for worship.

Os Guinness, Renaissaince : This work was of particular interest because Guinness showed how relevant the gospel still is in today’s ever-changing society. I’d recommend every preacher read this because you can see just how important the gospel is no matter how bad things may be perceived. Guinness leaves us with much hope and much to be desired from ourselves.

Cicero, On Duties : I’d seen this work cited in several other books that I’d read, so I figured it was time to pick up a copy and read it myself. Cicero took me back to ancient Rome and instilled the sense of pietas (“duty”) that I read of Aeneas having. This is a great read and rather formative to the reader’s outlook. This work helps for us to not be so self-centered, but outward looking.

Brian Zahnd, From Water to Wine : This book is Zahnd’s explanation of his departure from American Christianity to a more ancient, patristic Christianity. He’d planted a church, preached a Republican gospel, had noteworthy speakers give talks at his church, but after twenty years he felt an emptiness that led him to seek out ancient Christianity. My favorite chapter in this book was his telling of how he recovered an ancient prayer life. He called it “a liturgy of prayer,” and I’ve adopted and adapted his prayer regime as a part of my own. I was greatly blessed by his work.

Timothy Gombis, The Drama of Ephesians : This work was Gombis’ Ph.D. thesis in published form. He gave great insight into the literary device of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I feel as if Ephesians makes complete sense now. The most interesting insight I received from this work, that I hadn’t known before, was that the rhetoric of Ephesians in Greek suggests that the letter itself was a sermon. Therefore, when you read Ephesians, think of it as someone preaching it, and it just adds something to the work that makes it so much better.

Larry Hurtado, Destroyer of the Gods : Hurtado’s book gave insight into what made early Christianity so distinct when compared to the prevailing religion of Rome. This book gave me a greater appreciation for my faith in its antiquity and the uniqueness it had. I walked away wanting to impress upon myself and others that Christianity was and should still be unique when compared to the world’s ways of doing things.

Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek : This book was a telling of the birth and usage of the Septuagint in Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity. This is an excellent primer for anyone who’d have an interest in learning more about the Greek translation of the Hebrew Tanakh. Law’s writing flows so well and is fitting for a novice of LXX studies, of which I consider myself. I was greatly blessed by his layout and the information contained in this book.

As you may tell, I read some classics, some newly or recently published materials, some about textual matters, and some biographies and philosophies. I try to read what interests me and items from which I may learn. Considering myself ever the student, I went to teachers in these respective fields and was greatly edified.

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