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7 “Must Read” Books on Jonathan Edwards

Keeping up with books, articles, blog posts, and podcasts-not to mention conferences- about New England pastor-theologian Jonathan Edwards seems like a nearly impossible task. The noted Edwards annotated bibliographer M. X. Lesser cataloged over 4,000 titles through 2005. That was 9 years ago! New items appear regularly. However, to get the would-be Edwards reader started, I list here 7 titles that I would recommend.

  1. Jonathan Edwards: A Life — George Marsden. This is the standard biography of Edwards and I expect it will remain so for many years to come. My East of Eden colleague David Owen Filson agrees with me so it must be so.
  2. Jonathan Edwards: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought — Stephen J. Nichols. This book is the first book I would read if I have never read Edwards or anything about him. It is clearly written, easily understood, and covers all the essentials. Stephen is a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, so it has to be good, right?!
  3. A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards — John Piper and Justin Taylor, editors. This book is the result of one of the Desiring God Ministries pastor’s conferences and the various essays are critically appreciative of Edwards.
  4. God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards — John Piper and Jonathan Edwards. This is one excellent book! Really. I mean it. Nick Batzig, my compadre, thinks this is top notch. John Piper offers a biographical account of how he came to appreciate Edwards and then provides extremely helpful annotated notes to Edwards’ The End for Which God Created the World.
  5. The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards — John Carrick. This is a very helpful analysis of Edwards’ Puritan plain style preaching.
  6. Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love — Kyle Strobel, editor. This is an annotated version of Edwards’ series of sermons on 1st Corinthians 13 which culminated in his “Heaven is a World of Love” sermon. Kyle Strobel is a new and up and coming Edwards scholar.
  7. The Theology of Jonathan Edwards — Michael McClymond and Gerlad McDermott. This is now the standard treatment of Edwards’ thought. It is, frankly, a mixed bag. It gets Edwards right on some things and wrong on others. The authors take me to task in a few footnotes, so I am not unbiased.

There are many other excellent books I could recommend. Many of them are the more heavy academic type and if there is interest, let me know and I will be happy to plug some of those.

 

 

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Matthew Everhard

6 years ago

Well done brothers! Thank you so much for the work on JE. Really appreciate it. Just now beginning my doctoral dissertation at RTS Orlando on Edwards, and your shows have given me some direction and insight. Listened to the interview with Ken Menkima at least three times and have been blessed with his recommendations. Might end up studying those new Matthean Parables that they recently published. Would not have known about them if not for you guys.

Matthew Everhard,
Faith EPC
Brooksvill, Florida

Stephen Smith

6 years ago

I personally think Iain Murray’s biography of Jonathan Edwards should be on this list for the following reasons:
1. The biography emphasises an important point – Edwards was a Christian first, and a pastor second. Murray argues this is an important key to understanding Edwards correctly. I think this offers an important balance to those writings that emphasise the academic side of Edwards.
2. Murray has written excellent books on Revival and he understands Edwards views on revival very well.
3. Perhaps the first great promoter of Edwards in modern times was Dr D.M. Lloyd-Jones. Murray’s close relationship with Dr Lloyd-Jones helped him see the important emphasis of Edwards ministry which were also present in a powerful way in Dr Lloyd-Jones own ministry.
4. A recent discussion on the Reformed Forum ‘East of Eden’ program described Murray’s biography of Edwards as a beloved and important biography.

Jeff Waddington

6 years ago

Stephen

You are correct in commending Iain Murray’s volume. It was the first biography of Edwards I read.

Jeff

Michael Plato

6 years ago

I’ll say it… How about a top seven list of the best heavy-duty academic books on Edwards!

James T. O'Brien

6 years ago

Hi, Jeff. Thanks for this. I’m a bit disappointed that you didn’t include anything by John Gerstner here. Of course, you limited yourself to 7 books and some great titles have to be left out. As an introductory list, I would think McClymond and McDermott could be dropped in order to make a place for Gerstner. Any of his titles would do, though I think the Soli Deo Gloria combo volume on Edwards as an Evangelist would be very high on my recommended list. Just a thought… thanks for doing this.

Jim

Jeff Waddington

6 years ago

Jim

Any of Dr Gerstner’s books on Edwards would be worth reading. As you might be able to surmise, I stuck more with recent volumes. Gerstner’s audio lectures on Edwards are an excellent resource that would be a good place for people to start. As you know, he gives the big picture but also drills down deeply.

Jeff

Nathan

6 years ago

Dear Jeff,
Would you have a recommend order of what order to read Jonathan Edwards if you never read him before? Such a list might start with the easiest, or most assessable, work of Edwards according to you and then go up to the most difficult. Of course, depending on how Edwards books might build on one another the most difficult book might seem actually quite natural if done correctly. I don’t know if Edwards books build on one another like this.

I know that a few books “written by” Jonathan Edwards were actually put together after his death, so I don’t know if such a list should include “those” books. What do you think?

Another question would be, would you recommend any particular editions of Edwards’ books over others? Or are all published editions equal? Thank you for the lists you have provided.

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