With more than fifty people having offered their top five most influential books or scholars, we’ve produced a tremendous collection of recommendations that could keep us all busy for years. I think what I have enjoyed most about reading these lists are the explanations people give for their choices. Some books merely confirmed a long process of reflection; some came out of nowhere and upended people’s worldviews; a few were so unexpected that they couldn’t be finished until the reader had grown a bit more. Some lists noted major figures in the field, others focused on relative unknowns. Many responses were as much intellectual autobiography as top five lists.
I think the most remarkable thing about these lists is their diversity. In 55 lists (275 selections1) more than 200 authors were identified. In fact, only 32 authors received more than one vote. The resulting list represents a great diversity of perspectives, and is almost a who’s-who of biblical studies (with a good number of general classics thrown in), though it does show a few clear biases (e.g., towards the New Perspective) and a shameful under-representation of women (only Margaret Barker and Toni Morrison received more than one vote, with two each). Clearly, the value of these lists is by no means limited to their most popular choices. Thus, here are two lists, the Top 10 most influential authors among those who answered, and the Top 10 most unique lists offered:
The Top Ten Most Influential Authors
1. N.T. Wright No doubt confirming Jim West’s distaste for memes, Wright was the clear winner, with twice as many votes as anyone else (ten, plus two more supplemental mentions). Most highlight his Christian Origins and the Question of God series, especially Jesus and the Victory of God, but also The New Testament and the People of God.
2. Walter Brueggemann Brueggemann, E.P. Sanders and Gordon Fee all received five votes, but Brueggemann gets the nod for having the greatest range of books chosen, particularly: The Prophetic Imagination, Introduction to the Old Testament, Theology of the Old Testament and The Psalms and the Life of Faith.
4. Gordon Fee (with Douglas Stuart) Listed fourth only because his most popular book has a co-author in Douglas Stuart. Most point to How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, though New Testament Exegesis and Pauline Christology also received a vote each.
5. James Kugel Close behind are James Kugel and Robert Alter, each with four votes plus one supplemental. Kugel gets 5th place for a slightly wider selection of works. His votes are divided between How to Read the Bible, the magisterial Traditions of the Bible and its shorter counterpart The Bible as it Was, with The Idea of Biblical Poetry and In Potiphar’s House also getting a nod.
6. Robert Alter Alter is mainly noted for his groundbreaking The Art of Biblical Narrative, with The Art of Biblical Poetry, The Pleasures of Reading, and The Literary Guide to the Bible (with Frank Kermode) also receiving mention.
Here things really get messy, as five authors received four votes each (James D.G. Dunn, Peter Enns, Jon D. Levenson, C.S. Lewis, and Bruce Malina), so consider this ordering entirely subjective. Since I trust Lewis is well-enough known without any help, he’ll take eleventh place. Seventh place is a tie between Levenson and Dunn, who each had three books mentioned:
7. Jon D. Levenson Levenson is noted for his introduction to the Hebrew Bible in Sinai and Zion, his treatment of the problem of evil in Creation and the Persistence of Evil, and his fascinating monograph on child sacrifice: The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son.
7. James D.G. Dunn Continuing to reveal our bias towards the New Perspective, Jimmy Dunn comes next with his Jesus Remembered: Christology in the Making, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, and his commentary on The Epistle to the Galatians.
9. Bruce Malina (with Richard Rohrbaugh) Malina comes next since two of his votes are for the co-edited Social Science Commentaries on The Synoptic Gospels, The Gospel of John, and The Letter of Paul; his The New Testament World and Windows on the World of Jesus also got one vote each.
10. Peter Enns Enns rounds out the top 10, unanimously selected for his excellent Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. If you ask me, he should get bonus points for enduring the whole Westminster Theological Seminary fiasco.
Honorable Mention: C.S. Lewis (4 votes), Bart Ehrman (3 votes, plus 1 for his edition of Metzger’s Text of the New Testament), Richard Bauckham (3, plus 1 supplemental), Kenneth Bailey (3), Richard B. Hays (3), Walter Wink (2, plus 2 supplemental). [UPDATE: With Jim West adding his two votes for Rudolf Bultmann, the latter finally avoids the dishonour of having the same number of votes as Rob Bell (2).]
Ten Unique Lists
In alphabetical order:
Jared Calaway at Antiquitopia: M.M. Bakhtin, Erich Auerbach, Michel de Montaigne, Shakespeare, “vacant for Elijah.”
Kevin P. Edgecomb at biblicalia: Lionel Casson, Henry H. Halley, James B. Pritchard, Jacob Milgrom, Yehezkel Kaufmann.
J.K. Gayle posted twice at Aristotle’s Feminist Subject: Homer, the LXX, Kenneth Lee Pike, Jacqueline Jones Royster, Philip Yancey (plus then Ruth Behar, Anne Carson, Cheryl Glenn, bell hooks, Gayl Jones, Anne Lamott, Nancy Mairs, Toni Morrison, Krista Ratcliffe, Alice Walker).
James R. Getz at Ketuvim: W. G. Lambert, Marvin Pope, Frank Moore Cross, David P. Wright, Catherine Bell.
David Ker at Lingamish: The Children’s Living Bible, The CEV, Better Bibles Blog, Bible bloggers, African story-telling
Darrell Pursiful at Dr. Platypus: A. T. Robertson, Joachim Jeremias, Joseph Campbell, Morton Kelsey, Thomas C. Oden (plus Watchman Nee, James Michener, Mircea Eliade, Walter Wink, Dan Williams)
Rich S. at An Exegete Reflects: Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, C. F. W. Walther, James Voelz, David W. Pao, Frederick Danker.
Jane Stranz at Of Life, Laughter and Liturgy: Rosemary Radford Ruether, Janet Morley, Fulbert Steffensky (plus Dorothee Sölle, Arndt Noack, Charles Elliott), André Chouraqui, Toni Morrison (plus Barbara Kingsolver).
Theophrastus at What I Learned From Aristotle : Ramban (Nachmanides), John Milton, Dante, Augustine, Rambam (Maimonides), (plus Averroes [Ibn Rushd], Thomas [Aquinas], Schneur Zalman, Shimon bar Yochai, Louis Ginzburg, Alter/Kermode, Gerald Hammond, James Kugel).
Weekend Fischer at Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength: Vladimir Lossky, Eusebius the Historian, A.J. Heschel, Lao Tzu, Ambrose Bierce.
1 So that everyone would have an equal number of “votes,” lists with more than five authors were limited to the five that seemed to be primary; the remaining selections are identified as “supplemental.”
UPDATE: Since responses continue to come in (at least 90 now), here is a list of all writers who have recieved at least two votes. Unlike the “Top 10,” I will keep this up to date (+# indicates supplemental votes):
N.T. Wright (18+6), Walter Brueggemann (10+1), James D.G. Dunn (8), Gordon Fee (2, and 6 with Douglas Stuart), Peter Enns (7), Richard B. Hays (7), C.S. Lewis (6+2), E.P. Sanders (6), Bart Ehrman (5, and 1 with Bruce Metzger), James Kugel (5+1), Robert Alter (5+1), Jon D. Levenson (5),Richard Bauckham (4+2), Rudolf Bultmann (4+1), Bruce Malina (4 with Richard Rohrbaugh), Karl Barth (3+3), Kenton Sparks (3+1), Kenneth Bailey (3), John Barton (3), Rob Bell (3), John Calvin (3), Frank Moore Cross (3), William Dever (3), Walter Wink (2+2), Michael Fishbane (2+1), Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza (2+1), Abraham Joshua Heschel (2+1), George Eldon Ladd (2+1), Eugene Peterson (2+1), Gerhard von Rad (2+1), William Barclay (2), Herman Bavinck (2), the Bible itself (2), Margaret Barker (2), James Barr (2), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (2), Daniel Boyarin (2), Martin Buber (2), Charles Dickens (2), Walther Eichrodt (2),Michael V. Fox (2), Richard Eliott Friedman (2), Terence E. Fretheim (2), John Goldingay (2), Michael Horton (2), Hans Küng (2), Bernard Levenson (2), Dale Martin (2), Christo van der Merwe (2), Bruce Metzger (1, and with Bart Ehrman 1), William Mounce (2), John Piper (2), Plato (2), James B. Pritchard (2), E. Randolph Richards (2), John A.T. Robinson (2), Albert Schweitzer (2), Shakespeare (2), Mark S. Smith (2+1), John Shelby Spong (2), Paul Tillich (2), Geerhardus Vos (2), Gerd Theissen (1, and 1 with Annette Merz), D.A. Carson (1+1 and 1 with John D. Woodbridge), John Ashton (1+1), Aristotle (1+1), Augustine (1+1), F.F. Bruce (1+1), David Carr (1+1), Brevard S. Childs (1+1), Hermann Gunkel (1+1), Larry Hurtado (1+1), Toni Morrison (1+1), The Septuagint (1+1), Francis Schaeffer (1+1), Moises Silva (1+1), Anthony Thiselton (1+1), Christopher Wright (1+1), Raymond Brown (0+2), Mark Nanos (0+2), Phyllis Trible (0+2).