I frequently get asked what I would recommend for people to read if they are interested in the study of the New Testament.   In my recent course on the Gospels (www.bartehrman.com/courses) I’m including as part of the supplement to the lectures an annotated list of suggested readings.   The idea is to provide people with some guidance for important books, some to start with and some for more advanced readers.  Here it is, for your perusing enjoyment!


The Unknown Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Annotated Suggestions for Further Reading


Aune, David. The New Testament in Its Literary Environment. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1987. A superb introduction to the genres of the New Testament writings in relation to other literature of the Greco-Roman world.

Brown, Raymond. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. Updated ed. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1999. A massive and exhaustive discussion of the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, suitable for those who want to know simply everything about every detail.

Brown, Raymond. The Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave. 2 vols. London: Doubleday, 1994. A detailed and thorough discussion of the Passion narratives of the four Gospels, in all of their aspects and for all of their verses.

Burridge, Richard. What Are the Gospels? A Comparison with Greco-Roman Biography, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004. A thorough study that emphatically argues that the Gospels are best understood as a kind of ancient biography.

Cadbury, H. J. The Making of Luke-Acts. 2nd ed. London: SPCK, 1968. A classic study that shows how the author of Luke and Acts used the traditions and sources at his disposal to produce a unified narrative. For advanced readers.

Carroll, John T. Jesus and the Gospels. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2016. A helpful, up-to-date introduction to each of the Gospels by an established and accessible scholar.

Ehrman, Bart D.  The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.  Seventh edition, 2020.  This book covers all the major scholarly issues connected with the historical study of the New Testament, with bibliographies, study questions, glossary, and so on.  Six of the chapters are directly connected with this course.

Ehrman, Bart D. and Michael W. Holmes. The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Questionis, 2nd ed. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2013. A collection of important essays that provide up-to-date discussions and bibliographies of every important aspect of New Testament textual criticism. For advanced readers.

Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented their Stories of the Savior (San Francisco: Harper One, 2016). An exploration of the oral traditions about Jesus in the years before they were written down, examining how they were changed and even invented over time.

Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. An examination of the early conflicts among various Christian groups (Ebionites, Marcionites, Gnostics, proto-orthodox) and the various “Scriptures” they produced—including noncanonical Gospels, Acts, epistles, and apocalypses.

Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. San Francisco: Harper San-Francisco, 2005. An account of the study of the manuscripts of the New Testament and how they came to be changed over the centuries by scribes.

Gamble, Harry. The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985. A clearly written and informative overview of the formation of the New Testament canon.

Goodacre, Mark. The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002. An interesting argument against the existence of the Q source.

Goodacre, Mark. The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze. London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001. An insightful discussion of all the ins and outs of the Synoptic Problem…

Harris, William V. Ancient Literacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989. A brilliant analysis by a major classicist who seeks to determine how many people could read and write in the ancient world and what their reasons were for doing so. For advanced readers.

Hezser, Catherine. Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2001. The definitive study of what we know about Jewish education—and specifically who could read and write—in Palestine at the time of Jesus. For advanced readers.

Kloppenborg, John S. Q, The Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. A brief and highly insightful analysis of the major questions concerning Q, including why it appears to have existed and what its message of Jesus was.

McIver, Robert K. Memory, Jesus, and the Synoptic Gospels. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011. An informed and insightful study of the oral traditions behind the Synoptic Gospels based on what psychologists and other social scientists have learned about the problems with eyewitness testimony and the faults of memory.

McKnight, Edgar V. What Is Form Criticism? Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969. A basic introduction to the study of how oral traditions about Jesus were formed and modified prior to the writing of the Gospels.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development and Significance. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987. The authoritative discussion of the formation of the canon. For advanced readers.

Metzger, Bruce M., and Bart D. Ehrman. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. All in all, the best introduction to the history, data, and methods of New Testament textual criticism. Portions of the book require a basic knowledge of Greek.

Nickle, Keith. The Synoptic Gospels: Conflict and Consensus. Rev. and expanded ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001. A brief and clear discussion of the Synoptic Problem.

Ong, W. J. Orality and Literacy. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013. An intriguing discussion of the social and psychological differences between oral and written cultures (i.e., between cultures in which traditions are typically heard and those in which they are typically read). For more advanced students.

Parker, David. The Living Text of the Gospels. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. A terrific little book, ideal for beginners, that shows how the changes made to manuscripts create new meanings for the Gospel texts themselves.

Powell, Mark Allan. Fortress Introduction to the Gospels. 2nd ed. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2018. A brief but helpful discussion of each of the four canonical Gospels.

Sanders, E. P., and Margaret Davies. Studying the Synoptic Gospels. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1989. A detailed and thorough discussion of the Synoptic problem and of the major scholarly approaches to each of the three Synoptic Gospels. For advanced students.

Sanders, E. P., and Margaret Davies. Studying the Synoptic Gospels. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1989. A detailed and thorough discussion of the complexities involved in the Synoptic Problem, including some of the major difficulties with accepting the existence of a Q source. Especially suited to advanced readers.

Senior, Donald. What Are They Saying About Matthew? Rev. and expanded ed. New York: Paulist Press, 1996. An overview of scholarly views of Matthew’s Gospel.

Sloyan, Gerard S. What Are They Saying About John?, rev. ed. New York: Paulist, 2006. A very nice introductory sketch of the modern scholarly debates concerning major aspects of John’s Gospel.

Smith, D. Moody. John Among the Gospels: The Relationship in Twentieth-Century Research, 2nd ed. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2001. A very clear discussion of the relationship of John and the Synoptics, as seen by scholars of the twentieth century.

Stein, Robert. The Synoptic Problem: An Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987. A good book-length treatment of the range of issues involved in the Synoptic Problem.

Talbert, Charles. What Is a Gospel? The Genre of the Canonical Gospels. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977. A classic attempt to situate the Gospels within the context of Greco-Roman literature.

Vansina, Jan. Oral Tradition as History. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. A classic and highly informative study of how traditions are transmitted and changed in oral cultures.

Viviano, Benedict. What Are They Saying About Q?. New York: Paulist Press, 2013. A brief and authoritative statement about what contemporary scholars are now saying about Q.

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2022-09-29T10:26:37-04:00September 27th, 2022|Book Discussions, Canonical Gospels|

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