This layperson's religion reading list was generously compiled by Westar Associate Robert Rock over the course of several years. This list mostly represents readings on the history of Christianity due to Westar's focus on the history and evolution of the Christian tradition over the past 30 years of research. However, there are a few books on other religions. Many scholars' publications have been excluded if in other than in English, and if in such depth of research as to be doubtful for lay reading.

This list received its last comprehensive update in July 2007, so please feel welcome to recommend new titles or suggest corrections using the submission form below.

Disclaimer: This reading list of course represents a wide variety of views, extending beyond the scope of Westar's academic seminars and, naturally, involving conflict and difference among the authors. The goal is to provide a wide-ranging set of options for individual and group study, while at the same time aiming for works that demonstrate a commitment to historical research and honest assessment of the results.

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How to Search the Reading List

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Example: Search for "Mary"

Apr 2006 Peter, Paul & Mary Magdalene, Bart Ehrman
Oct 1997 The Life of Mary and Birth of Jesus: Ancient Infancy Gospel of James, Ronald Hock
-- 1998 Virgin Birth? The Real History of Mary & Her Son Jesus, Gerd Leudeman
Nov2003 Gospel of Mary Magdala: Jesus & the First Woman Apostle, Karen King
Oct 2005 Mary Magdalene Understood, Jane Schaberg
Sep 2004 Resurrection of Mary Magdalene: Legends, Apocrypha, & the Christian Testament, Schaberg

Submit a Book

  • Please only submit books published in the past 5–10 years.
  • This form can also be used to submit corrections to the existing list.
  • We will update the list periodically to remove old books, add new ones, and make corrections.
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Books by Westar Fellows

Armstrong, Karen
See also: Polebridge author page

Oct 2014 Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence
Aug 2011/Jan 2001 The Battle for God
–– 2011/2004/1993 A History of God: 4000-year Quest of Judaism, Christianity & Islam
May 2011 Islam: A Short History
Dec 2010 Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life
Nov 2007 The Bible, A Biography
Sep 2007 Muhammed: A Prophet for our Time
Apr 2007 The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Religious Tradition
Jan 2007 What is Religion? (DVD)
Oct 2006 A Short History of Myth
Oct 2006 Muhammed: A Prophet for Our Time, (Eminent Lives)
Feb 2005 The Spiral Staircase: My Climb out of Darkness
Jan 2005 Through The Narrow Gate
Jan 2005 History of Jerusalem
Sep 2004 Buddha
Aug 2002 Islam: A Short History
Dec 2001 Islam: Universal History
Nov 2001 Holy War: The Crusades & Impact Today
Feb 2001 Buddha

BeDuhn, Jason D.
See also: Polebridge author page

Nov 2013 The First New Testament: Marcion's Scriptural Canon
Apr 2003 Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament

Bessler, Joseph A.
See also: Polebridge author page

2013 A Scandalous Jesus: How Three Historic Quests Changed Theology for the Better

Beutner, Edward F.
See also: Polebridge author page

Oct 2007 Listening to the Parables of Jesus
2004 Perpetual Angeles: A Knell of Proverbs, Poems & Parables
2003 Season’s Readings: A Festival of Holiday Originals
2001 A Christmas Star: The Best Poets of 2000

Borg, Marcus
See also: Polebridge author page

May 2014 Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most
Feb 2008 Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary
Oct 2007 The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Birth
May 2007 Living the Heart of Christianity: A Guide to Putting Your Faith Into Action
Jan 2007 The Last Week
Oct 2006 Living the Heart of Christianity
Dec 2004 Jesus and Buddha
Aug 2004 The Heart of Christianity
Feb 2002 Reading the Bible Again ... For the First Time
Mar 1995 Meeting Jesus Again ... For the First Time

Corley, Kathleen E.
See also: Polebridge author page

Aug 2004 Jesus and Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ
Oct 2002 Women and the Historical Jesus

Crossan, John Dominic
See also: Polebridge author page

Mar 2007 God and Empire: Jesus against Rome, Then & Now
Nov 2005 In Search of Paul: How Jesus’ Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom
Jul 2000 A Long Way from Tipperary: What a Former Monk Discovered in his Search for the Truth
Oct 1999 Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions
Feb 1999 The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately after Jesus’ Execution
Jan 1998 The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings & Earliest Images
Apr 1995 Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up!
Feb 1995 Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography
–– 1995 Who Killed Jesus? Anti-Semitism in the Death of Jesus
Feb 1993 The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant

Cupitt, Don
See also: Polebridge author page

Feb 2015 Creative Faith: Religion as a Way of Worldmaking
Oct 2006 Radical Theology
Jul 2006 The Old Creed and the New
Feb 2006 The Great Question of Life
Jan 2005 The Way to Happiness, A Theory of Religion
Oct 2003 Life, Life
Sep 2003/1994/1988 Sea of Faith
2002 Is Nothing Sacred? The Non-realist Philosophy of Religion
Nov 2001 Emptiness & Brightness
Oct 2001 The Once & Future Faith
May 2001 Taking Leave of God
Mar 2001 Reforming Christianity
–– 2000 Philosophy’s Own Religion
–– 2000 Kingdom Come in Everyday Speech
Feb 2001 Philosophy’s Own Religion

Dewey, Arthur J.
See also: Polebridge author page

Sep 2014 The Gospel of Jesus, 2d ed.
Nov 2010 The Authentic Letters of Paul: A New Reading of Paul's Rhetoric and Meaning (with Lane C. McGaughy, Roy Hoover, and Daryl D. Schmidt)
Jan 2012 The Complete Gospel Parallels (with Robert J. Miller)
Jun 1996 Spirit and Letter in Paul
Jan 1996 Advent Christmas, Interpretation and Lesson

Eisenbaum, Pamela

–– 2009 Paul Was Not a Christian

Fortna, Robert T.
See also: Polebridge author page

Mar 2007 The Fourth Gospel & Its Predecessors
Sep 2005 The Gospel of Matthew
Sep 2001 Jesus in Johannine Tradition

Funk, Robert W.
See also: Polebridge author page

May 2013/Dec 1982/1973 Beginning-Intermediate Grammar for Hellenistic Greek
Jan 2007 Funk on Parables
Mar 2002 A Credible Jesus
Aug 2000 Once and Future Jesus
–– 1998 The Acts of Jesus
Oct 1997 Honest to Jesus
Jan 1997 The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus
–– 1995 New Gospel Parallels: Gospel of Mark
1994/Jan 1975 Jesus as Precursor

Galston, David
See also: Polebridge author page

Nov 2013 Embracing the Human Jesus: A Wisdom Path for Contemporary Christianity

Geering, Lloyd
See also: Polebridge author page

Nov 2014 Reimagining God: The Faith Journey of a Modern Heretic
Nov 2013 From the Big Bang to God: Our Awe-Inspiring Journey of Evolution
Jan 2007 Wrestling with God: The Story of My Life
Sep 2002 Christianity without God
Dec 2000 Tomorrow’s God
Jul 2001 The World to Come: From Christian Past to Global Future
Mar 2001 Christian Faith at the Crossroads

Hedrick, Charles W.
See also: Polebridge author page

–– 2008 When Faith Meets Reason: Religion Scholars Reflect on Their Spiritual Journeys
Jan 2006 Ancient History: Monuments and Documents
2005/Nov 1994 Parables as Poetic Fictions: The Creative Voice of Jesus
2005/Sep 1980 The Apocalypse of Adam
Jul 2004 Many Things in Parables: Jesus and His Modern Critics
Jun 2004 The Gospel of the Savior: A New Ancient Gospel
Oct 2000 Decrees of the Demotionidai
Apr 2000 History and Silence, Purge and Rehabilitation of Memory in Late Antiquity
Jun 1999 When History and Faith Collide: Studying Jesus
–– 1994 Parables as Poetic Fictions: The Creative Voice of Jesus

Hoover, Roy W.
See also: Polebridge author page

Nov 2010 The Authentic Letters of Paul: A New Reading of Paul's Rhetoric and Meaning (with Arthur J. Dewey, Lane C. McGaughy, and Daryl D. Schmidt)
Jun 2004 The Historical Jesus Goes to Church
Dec 2002 Profiles of Jesus
–– 1994 Approaches to the Bible: The Best of Bible Review
–– 1993 The Five Gospels (with Robert Funk)

Jackson, Glenna S.
See also: Polebridge author page

Dec 2002 Have Mercy on Me: The Canaanite Woman in Matthew 15.21–28
–– 2002 Integrative Studies Reader: Otterbein College
–– 2000 Remedial Christianity (with Paul Alan Laughlin)

Jacobson, Arland D.
See also: Polebridge author page

Nov 2007 The Future of Lutheranism in Global Context
–– 1995 Ecumenical Shared Ministry in the United Methodist Church

Jefford, Clayton N.
See also: Polebridge author page

–– 2013 Didache: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

Jenks, Gregory C.
See also: Polebridge author page

–– 2013 Once and Future Scriptures: Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church

Jones, Paul H.
See also: Polebridge author page

–– 2012 The Church's Seven Deadly Secrets: Identity Theft from Within

King, Karen L.

Feb 2006 Secret Revelation of John
Apr 2005 What is Gnosticism?
Nov 2003 Gospel of Mary Magdala: Jesus & the First Woman Apostle
–– 1997 Women & The Goddess Traditions in Antiquity & Today
Jul 1996 Revelation of the Unknowable God: A Gnostic Text from Nag Hammadi

Kloppenborg (Verbin), John S. 

Oct 2008 Q, the Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus
May 2000 Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel

Kotrosits, Maia

Feb 2015 Rethinking Early Christian Identity: Affect, Violence, and Belonging
–– 2013 Re-reading the Gospel of Mark Amidst Loss and Trauma (with Hal Taussig)
–– 2011 The Thunder: Perfect Mind: An Introduction and New Translation (with Hal Taussig, Jared Calaway, Celene Lillie, and Justin Lasser)

Laughlin, Paul Alan

Mar 2005 Getting Oriented – Eastern Religions
Aug 2000 Remedial Christianity: What Every Believer Should Know About the Faith, but Probably Doesn’t (with Glenna Jackson)
Sep 1987 Lectionary Worship – Aids

Leaves, Nigel

–– 2011 Religion Under Attack: Getting Theology Right!
Sep 2006 The God Problem: Alternatives to Fundamentalism
Mar 2005 Surfing on the Sea of Faith: Ethics & Religion of Don Cupitt
Apr 2004 Odyssey of the Sea of Faith: Life & Writings of Don Cupitt

Lüdemann, Gerd

–– 2014 The Earliest Christian Text: 1 Thessalonians
–– 2011 What Jesus Didn't Say
–– 1999 The Great Deception: What Jesus Really Said & Did
–– 1998 Suppressed Prayers: Gnostic Spirituality in Early Christianity
–– 1998 Virgin Birth? The Real History of Mary & Her Son Jesus
–– 1997 The Unholy in Holy Scriptures: The Dark Side of the Bible
–– 1996 Heretics: The Other Side of Early Christianity
–– 1995 What Really Happened to Jesus
–– 1994 The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience & Theology

Matthews, Shelly

–– 2014  The Acts of the Apostles: Taming Tongues of Fire
–– 2012 Perfect Martyr: The Stoning of Stephen and the Construction of Christian Identity

McGaughy, Lane C.

Nov 2010 The Authentic Letters of Paul: A New Reading of Paul's Rhetoric and Meaning (with Arthur J. Dewey, Roy W. Hoover, and Daryl D. Schmidt)
Jul 2005 The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary

Miller, Robert J.

Jan 2012 The Complete Gospel Parallels
2010 The Complete Gospels, 4th ed.
Jun 2007 The Future of the Christian Tradition
May 2003 Born Divine: Births of Jesus & other Sons of God

Patterson, Stephen J.

Oct 2014 The Lost Way: How Two Forgotten Gospels Are Rewriting the Story of Christian Origins
Aug 2004 Beyond the Passion
Jun 2004 Historical Jesus Goes to Church
Oct 2001 The Apocalyptic Jesus: A Debate (with Dale C. Allison, Marcus J. Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Robert J. Miller)
May 1998 The God of Jesus
Apr 1993 Gospel of Thomas and Jesus

Pervo, Richard I.

Mar 2014 Gospel of Luke (Scholars Bible series)
–– 2008 The Mystery of Acts: Unraveling Its Story
Nov 2006 Dating Acts
Oct 1996 The Moral Vision of the New Testament

Primavesi, Anne

Dec 2004 Making God Laugh
Aug 2003 Gaia’s Gift: Earth, Ourselves & God after Copernicus
Oct 2000 Sacred Gaia: Holistic Theology & Earth System Science
–– 1994 From Apocalypse to Genesis Ecology, Feminism & Christianity
–– 1994 Our God Has No Favorites: A Liberation Theology of the Eucharist

Robbins, Vernon K.

Sep 2003 Semeia 64: The Rhetoric of Pronouncement
Dec 1996 Exploring the Texture of Texts
Oct 1996 The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse
Sep 1994 New Boundaries in Old Territory: Forms & Social Rhetoric in Mark

Robinson, James M.

May 2009 The Nag Hammadi Scriptures (with Marvin W. Meyer & Elaine H. Pagels)
Feb 2007 Jesus According to the Earliest Witness
Sep 2006 Gospel of Jesus: A Historical Search for the Good News
Sep 2006 Gospel of Jesus: In Search of the Original Good News
Jun 2006 Trajectories Through Early Christianity (with Koester, 1st Ed 1971 & in German/Japanese)
May 2006 Secrets of Judas: The Story of the Misunderstood Disciples & His Lost Gospel
–– 2005 The Sayings Gospel Q: Collected Essays, also 2002: with Parallels to Mark & Thomas
Mar 2005 Contemporary Authors
Oct 2001 The Sayings of Jesus
Aug 2001 From Quest to Q
–– 2000 The Coptic Gnostic Library: 14 vols, 1st Edition 1975–95
–– 2000 The Critical Edition of Q: with Matthew, Luke, Mark & Thomas, in German & French

Schmidt, Daryl D.

–– 2010 The Authentic Letters of Paul: A New Reading of Paul's Rhetoric and Meaning (with Arthur J. Dewey, Roy W. Hoover, & Lane C. McGaughy)

Scott, Bernard Brandon

Mar 2015 The Real Paul: Recovering His Radical Challenge
–– 2010 Trouble with Resurrection: From Paul to the Fourth Gospel

Smith, Dennis E. 

Nov 2013 Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Report (co-editor with Joseph B. Tyson)

Tatum, W. Barnes

–– 2012 Jesus at the Movies: A Guide to the First Hundred Years, 3d ed.

Taussig, Hal

–– 2013 A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts
–– 2006 A New Spiritual Home: Progressive Christianity at the Grass Roots
–– 1999 Jesus Before God: The Prayer Life of the Historical Jesus

Tyson, Joseph B.

Nov 2013 Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Report (co-editor with Dennis E. Smith)
–– 2006 Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle

Verhoeven, Paul

Nov 2011 Jesus of Nazareth

White, L. Michael

May 2010 Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite
Oct 2005 From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith

Wink, Walter

Jan 2014 Just Jesus: My Struggle to Become Human

Books by Other Authors

Allison, Dale C.

Oct 2006 Sex and the Single Savior
Oct 2006 The Historical Jesus in Context
Nov 2006 The Love There That’s Sleeping (George Harrison)
Jul 2006 The Luminous Dusk, Finding God
Nov 2005 Studies in Matthew
Sep 2005 Resurrecting Jesus
Sep 2003 Testament of Abraham
Oct 2001 The Apocalyptic Jesus
Dec 2001 Scriptural Allusions in the NT
Jan 2001 New Proclamation
Oct 2000 The Intertextual Jesus: Scripture in Q

 Butcher, John B.

Feb 2008 Back to Darwin: A Richer Account of Evolution
Oct 2007 A Christian Natural Theology, Second Edition
Dec 2005 The Call of the Spirit: Process Spirituality in a Relational World
Sep 2003 Process Perspective: Frequently Asked Questions about Process Theology
Aug 2002 The Uncommon Lectionary

Cobb, John B.

Jan 2007 Sustainability: Economics, Ecology, and Justice (Ecology and Justice)
Oct 2005 Romans: Chalice Commentaries for Today
Feb 2003 Progressive Christians Speak: A Different Voice on Faith and Politics
Jun 2001 God and the World
Dec 1999 Transforming Christianity and the World
Jan 1999 Christ in a Pluralistic Age
Jul 1997 For the Common Good

Ehrman, Bart D.

Mar 2014 How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee
Mar 2011 Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are
Feb 2007 Misquoting Jesus: The Story About Who Changed the Bible & Why
Oct 2006 The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at the Betrayer & the Betrayed
Apr 2006 Peter, Paul & Mary Magdalene
–– 2005 Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the New Testament & Why
Jul 2005 Lost Christianities: Battles for Scripture & the Faiths We Never Knew
Oct 2004 Truth & Fiction in the Da Vinci Code
Dec 2003 The Apostolic Fathers, I Clement, II Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp
Sep 2003 Christianity in the Late Antiquity, 300–450 C.E.: A Reader
Aug 2003 Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It into the New Testament

Goehring, James E.

Apr 2007 The World of Early Egyptian Christianity: Language, Literature & Social Context
May 1999/1980 Ascetics, Society, & the Desert: Studies in Early Egyptian Monasticism

Hock, Ronald F.

Mar 2007/1980 The Social Context of Paul’s Ministry: Tent-making and Apostleship
Oct 2004 The Banned Book of Mary: How Her Story Was Suppressed by the Church and Hidden in Art for Centuries
Dec 2002 The Chreia and Ancient Rhetoric Classroom Exercises
Oct 1997 The Life of Mary and Birth of Jesus: Ancient Infancy Gospel of James
Jul 1996 The Infancy Gospels of James and Thomas

Koester, Helmut

May 2007 Paul & His World
Jan 2007 The Fabric of Early Christianity
Aug 2006 Trajectories Through Early Christianity
Apr 2002 Commentary on Gospel of Luke
Dec 2000 History & Literature of Early Christianity

Levine, Amy-Jill

Sept 2014 Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi

Mabry, John R.

–– 2012 God as Nature Sees God: A Christian Reading of the Tao Te Ching
–– 2007 The Way of Thomas, Nine Insights for Enlightened Living from the Secret Sayings of Jesus
–– 2006 God Has One Eye: The Mystics of the World’s Religions

Mack, Burton L.

Sep 2003 The Christian Myth
Jan 1999 Christian Origins & Language of the Kingdom of God
Sep 1996 Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making of the Christian Myth
May 1996 Re-imagining Christianity
–– 1995 Who Wrote the New Testament?
Apr 1994 The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins

Needleman, Jacob

Feb 2007 Why Can’t We Be Good?
Sep 2005 The Wisdom of Love: Toward a Shared Inner Search
Nov 2003 A Sense of the Cosmos: Where Has the Meaningful Time Gone, and Can We Get It Back?
Sep 2003/1993/1985 Lost Christianity: A Journey of Rediscovery
Aug 2003 The Heart of Philosophy
May 2003 The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders
Jun 1998 Money, Money, Money: The Search for Wealth & the Pursuit of Happiness
Dec 1996 (Paper) & Sep 1997 (Hard) Gurdjieff: Essays & Reflections on the Man & His Teaching

Pagels, Elaine

Feb 2013 Revelations: Visions, Prophecy & Politics in the Book of Revelation
May 2009 The Nag Hammadi Scriptures (with Marvin W. Meyer & James M. Robinson)
Mar 2007 Reading Judas
Mar 2007 Gospel of Judas
Jul 2006 The Inner Journey
Apr 2006 Gnostic Gospels
Feb 2006 The Gospel of Thomas
Jan 2005 Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
Apr 1999 Insights from the Secret Teachings of Jesus (Thomas)
Apr 1996 The Origin of Satan