When it comes to biblical and theological studies, a wide gap often exists between the church and the academy.1 This troublesome disjunction runs both ways. Many churches are staffed by pastors several years out of seminary who have neither the time nor accessible resources to keep up with the state of the art in the fields that should be informing their ministries. And we are all too familiar with the “ivory tower” tendencies that pervade the academy, even in seminaries and divinity schools. There is much work that needs to be done to bridge this gap. The church and its leaders need to be brought up to date, and the academy and its scholars need to be reminded of and influenced by the “real world” applications of their scholarship.
Into this gap comes David R. Bauer’s helpful bibliographic tool for those engaged in or preparing for ministry.2 Bauer has collected into a single volume references for approximately twenty-two hundred titles by thirteen hundred scholars. These are categorized by subject under four main headings: The Whole Bible, The Old Testament, Early Judaism, and The New Testament. Reference tools, broad subjects, and bibliographies for individual books of the Bible are included under each heading. While most entries are simply cited, each subject begins with a “Highly Recommended” section of references Bauer has annotated with comments regarding content, historical significance, and (primarily theological) usefulness for his intended audience. The book is also supplemented by a helpful index of authors cited.
Of course, for a single volume bibliography of this scope, every possible resource has not been included. Given the incredible proliferation of biblical studies in the past centuries, to say that a completely comprehensive catalogue would be cumbersome is a severe understatement. With this offering, however, Bauer has provided a manageable entrance into the field for the beginner or non-specialist. To this end, most of the included works are in English and there are no journal articles. While the restriction to English works is understandable given Bauer’s audience, the inclusion of seminal articles in various subjects would further enhance this tool. Nonetheless, the degree of comprehensiveness Bauer has been able to achieve and the incredible number of works he has covered is very impressive.
However, because such a project is necessarily selective, one must consider the author’s perspective and methodology. Bauer provides three criteria that guided his work of selection and annotation: “(1) usefulness for the theological interpretation of the Bible within the context of the faith of the church; (2) significance in the history of interpretation; and (3) representation of evangelical and especially Wesleyan scholarship” (p. 1). On first reading, these principles raised suspicion in the mind of this reviewer. In particular, I wondered if Bauer would be overly dismissive of critical scholarship that often runs counter to conservative or evangelical theology.
This fear was put to rest, however, as I discovered a balanced and fair presentation that more often than not represents the finest scholarship on a given topic. To be sure, various scholars would have made different decisions regarding which works should be included in the “Highly Recommended” category and which in the “Also Significant” sections. And it is clear that Bauer sometimes privileges theological interpretation to more technical exegesis. In this he perpetuates a misconception that seminarians and ministers cannot derive important theological insights or contemporary application from more purely philological or historical studies. At the same time, most of his recommended commentaries are based on exegesis of the original languages, rather than the wide range of available commentaries which are based primarily on English translations of the Bible. As promised, his selections and annotations give preference to evangelical scholarship, but those outside of this tradition will not find his perspective stifling, though his treatment of Jewish scholarship is somewhat uneven.
There are several aspects of this resource that are particularly noteworthy and for which Bauer should be lauded. First, though a New Testament scholar, Bauer has done a fine job preparing the Hebrew Bible bibliographies, which are as equally detailed and accurate as the New Testament section. In general, his thorough coverage of standard reference works will be extremely valuable for the beginning student. Though I have already mentioned my desire for the inclusion of important articles, Bauer has at least provided annotated sections covering journals, which will be a helpful aid for the motivated yet time-deprived reader trying to decide which periodicals are best suited to his or her interests. Finally, Bauer has offered guidance for the study of crucial complimentary fields such as the ancient Near East, Second Temple Judaism, and Rabbinic Judaism, though these bibliographies are extremely selective and introductory, based almost exclusively on English translations and resources.
Bauer has thus developed a near perfect guide for non-specialists involved in the interpretation of Scripture for Christian faith communities. Every student entering seminary or beginning graduate school in biblical studies should have a copy of this book. Pastors looking to build, rebuild, or update their personal library will find it equally helpful. Professional scholars, advanced graduate students, and those interested in comprehensive research will need to look elsewhere for more specific bibliographic aids. Nonetheless, anyone approaching this book with a critical eye may find it helpful as a starting point when entering uncharted territory.