Six Books to Get You through Seminary and Help You in Ministry

When journeying through (or preparing for) seminary, you are going to need some robust tools in your toolbox. You’ll need tools to help you complete your studies with excellence, to give you a thorough examination background materials you aren’t aware of, and to revitalize the concept of academics as devotional study. Your papers aren’t the only thing you should be concerned with — your devotional life will need feeding as well. What seminary student hasn’t felt the draw to overemphasize the academic perspective at the expense of being nourished through the deep study of the word of God? Here are six books that have helped countless seminary students and ministers, this blog author included.

Confronted by Grace: Meditations of a Theologian, by John Webster

John Webster is one of the 20th centuries most respected systematic theologians. This collection of short sermons displays not only the ability of a leading scholar to not stay relegated to the “ivory tower,” but it also clearly displays the glory of Christ in the Scriptures. This book currently lives on my coffee table.

It’s one thing to teach the truth, and something else to proclaim it, not only interpreting Scripture but finding yourself and your hearers interpreted by it. That is what happens in reading these sermons: one forgets the preacher and hears Christ. John Webster believes ‘…that growth in the Christian life is simply growth in seeing that the gospel is true.’ Reading these sermons, I found myself joining in his joyful ‘Amen!’ to all of the promises that we have in Jesus Christ. What could be more rewarding than that?

–Michael Horten

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Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Walter Elwell

A worthy and important tool in any seminarians toolbox. The BEB is a staple that will serve you well through your studies, into ministry, and in your personal devotional life in the Scriptures. It is a thorough reference work that will give you helpful background and textual information on key themes, places, people, and words throughout the Old and New Testaments. If you’re studying the Prophets or Psalms particularly, you may come across something like a reference to Gibeah, or the Valley of Bacca, or Mamre. If you want to get a clear picture of the use or significance to the text, this encyclopedia will serve you well. I consult it daily.

[The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible] is both high-quality and innovative, moderately meaty in content, yet eminently readable and usable from a stylistic standpoint. BEB is deserving of a spot on the bookshelf of many exegetes and expositors (preferebly a high-traffic spot).

— A. Boyd Luter, Jr.

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Exegetical Fallacies, by D. A. Carson

This book is rather scary. If you read it and find that you haven’t committed nearly all of these fallacies, you will be one of the blessed few. Or you just aren’t reading it carefully enough. Dr. Carson provides clear and helpful guidelines to recognizing and avoiding very common fallacies when dealing with Scripture. This will not only help you write better papers, but preach more careful sermons.

A must for teachers, pastors, and serious Bible students.

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

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Theological Commentary: Evangelical Perspectives, ed. Michael Allen

Theological commentary is a genre that has fallen woefully to the wayside, in exchange for textual or homiletical commentary that, while helpful, can often sidestep the glory of God as seen richly through a theological reading of the text. This book has articles from numerous well-respected theologians, ranging from the lay-level to highly-academic, all seeking to glorify Christ through a careful and deep examination of his word. Each scholar chose the passage that excited them, so you have a collection of vibrant and moving micro-commentaries spanning the range of the Bible. Kelly M. Kapic’s article “Forsakenness and the God Who Sings” (on Psalm 22) moved me, and helped change my perspective on the Psalms and the role of canon.

This excellent collection brings together some fine examples of the theological interpretation at work on particular biblical texts, along with some sympathetic assessments of the prospects for reading Scripture theologically. Each of the essays demonstrates exegetical finesse, theological alertness, and sensitivity to the spiritual dimensions of study of Scripture; taken together, they deserve a wide and attentive readership.

— John Webster

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Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old, by G. K. Beale

Greg Beale is one of the most respected biblical theologians (that is, a theologian specializing in “biblical theology,” as opposed to its counterpart “systematic theology”) living today. This handbook gives you a breathtaking tour of intertextuality in the New Testament, and is sure to open its readers eyes a little more to the beauty and interconnectedness of Scripture.

Greg Beale is well known for his contributions to the New Testament use of the Old Testament and the development of biblical theology. In this extremely useful handbook, we see how Beale goes about his task in terms of presuppositions, method, and the necessary reference tools for the task. The result is essential reading for anyone contemplating research in this area.

— Steve Moyise

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Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People, by Constantine R. Campbell

Con Campbell has written a short and vitally important work aimed at helping seminary students and recent graduates in the daunting task of keeping their Greek. It is a near-ubiquitous experience of seminarians that you spend a few semesters studying Greek with perhaps Mounce and Wallace’s textbooks, then within a year or two nearly lose all that hard work entirely due to the lack of establishing careful habits. With this little guide, you can fight back against that problem.

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Bonus! Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey

Whether or not you belong to an overtly-liturgical tradition, this book captures the beauty of liturgy and brings it to bear on the everyday moments of life — the mundane, the glorious, the tragic. It is rife with beautiful illustrations and poetry that will stir your affections for God, and for prayer. This book has given my heart words for the Lord at times when I don’t have any of my own. From a liturgy for your first cup of coffee in the morning, to changing diapers, to beginning a day of academic studies — this book will meet you in whatever moment you are in, and remind you that there are no profane moments, only holy moments and moments that we have forgotten are holy.

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Leave us a comment, and let us know which books have been most helpful for you!