The Gospel for Real Life

Great Books on James & Psalms

Maybe you’re following along with my Psalms and James series at Ventura and would like to learn more about these books of the Bible.  Or, maybe you just want some good book/commentary recommendations.  Here is a list of books that I’m utilizing as tools for my sermon series:


1) Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Psalms 1-72 by Derek Kidner

2) Psalms by Peter Steveson

3) PsalmsThe Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (This is a small booklet.  It is a very easy read and very encouraging to help us see the gospel in Psalms.)


1) The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of James by J.A. Motyer (This is a commentary that reads like a devotional book.)

2) Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Letter of James by Douglas J. Moo


13 responses

  1. Enenennx

    I have found Robert Alter’s translation of Psalms (with commentary)to feel genuine. Evert Fox has a nice translation as well. These translations are not shouldering the doctrines of latter day christianity, and as such are liberated from the narrow-focusing that the notoriously unacademic versions like NIV provide.

    August 18, 2011 at 2:02 am

  2. I have not read those at this point. Obviously they’re outside of an evangelical perspective, but I did read a review on Alter’s book about reading the Hebrew Bible from a literary perspective, and it looks like there are needed corrections from his work – with some critiques on his perspective as well.

    Thank you for sharing these.

    (Side note – I’m not a defender of the NIV, but is “unacademic” the right word when there were supposedly over “100 scholars” working on the translation from various denominations, theological bents, etc? I’m not sure Alter would even say it’s unscholarly as much as saying the translation committee needs to look primarily at the text than the history around the text when translating the text. Maybe?)

    August 18, 2011 at 9:56 am

  3. Gwen

    Not being familiar with these books myself, I have to ask, what is “obviously outside of an evangelical perspective” about them, and is the evangelical perspective the only right one? Juuuuust wondering…

    August 18, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    • “obviously outside of an evangelical perspective” would include that Alter does not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. And, regarding evangelicalism being the “only right one”, I would just say that at the core, I believe that grace alone through faith alone is the essential component. That said, inerrancy and the Trinity would be shared beliefs among evangelicals. There are plenty of evangelicals; however, that have diverse beliefs that may also not be in accordance with Scriptures.

      The issue is not whether one is an “evangelical” per se as much as one is trusting in Christ for salvation, submitted to the Scriptures and living out the Word.

      August 18, 2011 at 11:02 pm

  4. Gwen

    I actually was wondering more about the use of the word “obviously,” since I hadn’t read the books and wondered if it should be obvious somehow to those of us who hadn’t read the books. But anyway, isn’t it helpful to sometimes read things from other perspectives? Or to often read things from other perspectives?

    So would you then call these plenty of evangelicals who have diverse beliefs not in accordance with Scripture evangelical, or would you call them something else? I know you’re not equating evangelical with Christian. I may be just mincing words. Is it possible that their beliefs are in accordance with just another interpretation of Scriptures?

    August 18, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    • My original response was to Enenennx. I assumed he knew that these recommendations weren’t “evangelical.” Also, I do think it can be good to read outside of one’s perspective – hence I thanked Enenennx for the book recommendations.

      Not sure what you are asking in your final questions.

      August 19, 2011 at 12:06 am

  5. Gwen

    Sorry, maybe I’ll try to clarify.
    Regarding your statement “There are plenty of evangelicals; however, that have diverse beliefs that may also not be in accordance with Scriptures,” I wondered, #1: if their views aren’t in accordance w/ scripture, can they still be called evangelical, or would they be called something else, since not being in accordance w/ scripture is outside the evangelical perspective… and #2: is it possible that perhaps those maybe-evangelicals have views that aren’t really out of accordance with scripture, just in accordance with a different interpretation of scripture?
    Is that a little clearer? Thanks man.

    August 19, 2011 at 9:10 am

    • I think either #1 or #2 could be true depending on the person. Some people claim evangelicalism in a very broad sense – which isn’t really “evangelical.” And, for those in evangelicalism in a narrower sense, #2 probably fits the right wording.

      August 19, 2011 at 1:59 pm

  6. Gwen

    So what does evangelical mean? I smell a blog post idea.

    August 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    • What does “Baptist” mean? It should mean whatever the original intent. Evangelicals of all variations pretty much stay the same; however, there are variants amongst evangelicals. That said, probably in most scenarios, the core doctrines of the gospel and practices of the Scripture are promoted.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm

  7. enenennx

    Every translation of course has issues. Just out of curiously have you always “not been a defender of the NIV”, or did you have a N.T. Wright sort of conversion away from believing the NIV was a good translation to believing it not worth defending.

    N.T. Wright came to the following conclusions (cribbed from Wikipedia, where it is sourced to his 2009 book Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision):

    “When the New International Version was published in 1980, I was one of those who hailed it with delight. I believed its own claim about itself, that it was determined to translate exactly what was there, and inject no extra paraphrasing or interpretative glosses…. Disillusionment set in over the next two years, as I lectured verse by verse through several of Paul’s letters, not least Galatians and Romans. Again and again, with the Greek text in front of me and the NIV beside it, I discovered that the translators had had another principle, considerably higher than the stated one: to make sure that Paul should say what the broadly Protestant and evangelical tradition said he said. …[I]f a church only, or mainly, relies on the NIV it will, quite simply, never understand what Paul was talking about.”

    Robert Alter certainly doesn’t bring in late 19th century Protestantism or latter American evangelicalism and all their presuppositions, and it therefore doesn’t massage the text or insert words like the NIV to help the reader believe their own presuppositions (eg that everything in the OT is about Jesus) or conform to their confirmation biases. What Robert Alter’s text does seem to do is create a context of worship, and a full sense that one should be on their knees when reading and reflecting upon the Psalms.

    So, to answer your question, any time one is striving teleologically to have a text say something, instead of following where the evidence of the text and history leads, you are being unacademic. Scholars do this often, and they need to be called out on it, because when they do they are abusing their status as a scholar. That is how I feel, anyway.

    Finally, can you direct me to the specific critique of Robert Alter’s work you refer to above, I would appreciate it. Cheers and thanks.

    August 19, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    • I have never been in the stamp-of-approval camp of the NIV. I prefer more literal translations than dynamic equivalent translations.

      Here’s one on-line blog referencing Alter ( It brings out pros and cons – even taking Alter’s critiques towards others and saying we need to take these seriously. This is by no means an exhaustive response from a major figure in the Christian camp, but thought it was nice for a generalization.

      That said, I don’t think this (or other critiques) should hinder someone from reading Alter’s works. It sounds like there can be great value in his translation work. Again, thanks for sharing.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:08 pm

  8. enenennx

    Thanks for the link.

    August 19, 2011 at 4:39 pm

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