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Most Influential Books

June 19, 2009

Earlier this week I was tagged by Adam on Ken Brown‘s most influential book meme challenge. With all that’s been going on in my life the past few weeks (teaching, moving, writing, applying for jobs), I haven’t kept up with reading blogs.  At the moment there are some 400 posts sitting in my RSS reader. As such, I just realized today that I was even tagged!

The rules of the meme challenge are:

  1. Name the five books (or scholars) that had the most immediate and lasting influence on how you read the Bible. Note that these need not be your five favorite books, or even the five with which you most strongly agree. Instead, I want to know what five books have permenantly changed the way you think.
  2. Tag five others.

Here are my five in order of their influence upon my life:

  1. W. G. Lambert’s Babylonian Wisdom Literature: changed the way I read wisdom literature in the Bible and made me want to pursue a career in Bible and the ancient Near East.
  2. Marvin Pope’s Song of Songs commentary in the Anchor series: opened my mind to a whole new  set of literature (various rabbinic exegetical methods, obscure Nabatean legends, etc.) and an entirely different way of constructing a commentary than the monolithic, single-minded viewpoint I had found in most commentaries up to that point. Pope provided a myriad of different (and often contradictory) interpretations.
  3. Frank More Cross’ Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: took me further along the ancient Near Eastern path. Cross was using much of the same material that Pope was using but in different ways. Additionally, Cross was grounding his work in source and tradition critical paradigms I had already come to embrace.
  4. David P. Wright’s Ritual in Narrative: brought together the Ugaritic material and ritual criticism in a way that made sense. Before Wright’s work I was most interested in Ugaritic texts in terms of myth (very much in keeping with Cross and Pope); it was Wright who first provided a paradigm to help understand Ugaritic (and biblical) ritual texts.  He’s also my dissertation adviser.
  5. Catherine Bell’s Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice: provided the framework that Wright was using and that subsequently I’ve embraced in my own work.

While I’m supposed to now tag five others to take this challenge, I really have no idea who has or has not yet gotten around to this one. So instead, I’ll just throw out an open invite to any of my dear readers who have not yet been formerly tagged.

  1. parkersmood permalink
    June 19, 2009 1:47 pm

    Hello Jim,

    I am jealous that you put Pope’s commentary on that list. That is a great pick, and one that is so important. I am not familiar with Bell, I will have to check that out sometime in the future.


    • June 20, 2009 11:45 pm

      Pope’s commentary is such a fascinating read. His whole discussion of love and death is amazing. I’m not sure how much I now buy his argument, but I wouldn’t have gone into Northwest Semitics without.

  2. June 19, 2009 2:24 pm

    Very, very intelligent list. The indispensable Eisenbrauns should get a few orders out of this.

    • June 20, 2009 11:51 pm

      Hmmm… Maybe I can get a kickback in Eisenbrauns swag. I just broke my mug the other day…

      • June 24, 2009 8:55 am


        Which mug was it? The cuneiform or the Gezer calendar?


        • June 24, 2009 12:35 pm

          Neither, actually. It was one of the older crimson Eisenbruans logo mugs. I still have the lapis blue 30th anniversary, Gezer and Enuma Elish mugs.

          I really have bought a lot of books from you all over the years, haven’t I?

        • June 24, 2009 12:42 pm

          Bummer; that one is a bit hard to come by. Maybe we should start raising the prices on the mugs to make them collectibles. Then you could file an insurance claim—and spend the money on more books, of course!

          Yep—and we thank you : )



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