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10 Book Recommendations for the Atonement and Resurrection

For Christians, everything hinges on the resurrection. But without his death to pay for our sins (atonement), there would be no resurrection.

Here are 10 recommendations to learn more about these two most important events in history, brought to you by Logos product specialist Ben Amundgaard.

If you have recommendations, please share them in the comment section. If we all do our part, this post can be a repository for great book recommendations on the cosmos-changing events of Holy Week.

Atonement book recommendations

Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, by Gustaf Aulén
In Christus Victor, Gustaf Aulén explores the “classic” concept of the doctrine of the atonement in which Christ overcomes the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection, while at the same time God in Christ reconciles the world to himself. Because of its predominance in the New Testament, in patristic writings, and in Luther’s theology, Aulén holds this may be the distinctively Christian idea of the atonement.

Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition, by Hans Boersma
In Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross, Hans Boersma takes seriously the critics of traditional atonement theology. He acknowledges divine violence is unavoidable but responds with an alternative account of violence that re-envisions the atonement as divine hospitality.

Studies in Dogmatics: The Work of Christ (Eerdmans, 1965), by G.C. Berkouwer
More than a work on the atonement, Perkouwer examines tough theological questions like: Would there have been an incarnation without sin? What is the relation of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation? Why does the Church confess that Christ suffered “under Pontius Pilate”? He concludes by discussing the four aspects of the work of Christ: reconciliation, sacrifice, obedience, and victory.

Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week; From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Ignatius, 2011), by Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI
In Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph Ratzinger brings to his study the vast learning of a brilliant scholar, the passionate searching of a great mind, and the deep compassion of a pastor’s heart. He dares readers to grapple with the meaning of Jesus’ life, teaching, death, and resurrection.

The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views (IVP, 2006), edited by James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy
In the Nature of the Atonement: Four Views, four popular scholars debate four different views of the atonement: Christus Victor (Gregory A. Boyd); penal substitution (Thomas Schreiner); healing (Bruce Reichenbach); and kaleidoscopic (Joel B. Green).

Resurrection book recommendations

The Resurrection of the Son of God (SPCK, 2003), by N.T. Wright
In The Resurrection of the Son of God, N.T. Wright surveys ancient beliefs about life after death. He seeks the best historical conclusions about the empty tomb and the belief that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, recognizing it was this belief that caused early Christians to call Jesus “Son of God”—a challenge to both politics and theology.

Surprised by Hope (SPCK, 2007), by N.T. Wright
N.T. Wright argues that what we believe about life after death will directly affect what we believe about life before death. If God intends to renew the whole creation—and if this began with Jesus’ resurrection—then the Church cannot stop at “saving souls.” It must work for God’s kingdom in the wider world, bringing healing and hope in the present life.  

Resurrection (SPCK, 2007), by Alister McGrath
Using poetry, prayer, and theological reflection along with commentary and fine art paintings, Alister McGrath engages both the mind and the imagination as he explores the great and extraordinary affirmation “Christ is risen!”

Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life (NavPress, 2006), by Eugene Peterson
With writing that is full of life, beauty, and prophetic insight, Living the Resurrection reflects on the three aspects of Christ’s resurrection that define our lives and energize our faith:

  • Resurrection wonder, the central focus of life in Christ
  • Resurrection meals, the invitation to daily spiritual formation
  • Resurrection friends, the intimate fellowship in whose midst the risen Jesus makes his joyful home

The Resurrection of Jesus: John David Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue (Fortress Press, 2006), Robert B. Stewart
Two of today’s most important and popular New Testament scholars, John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright, discuss contrasting understandings of the historical reality and theological meaning of Jesus’ resurrection.


Learn more about the resurrection in Mobile Ed: NT156 The Significance of the Resurrection (2 hour course).

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  • I think one reason that scholars are so confused about the “atonement” is that Christ’s death was not an “atonement” but rather a “propitiation”.

    I also think they are confused because there are two very distinct things accomplished that are very different. On the one hand, God, as judge of all the earth had to justify *himself* for freely forgiving repentant sinners (Romans 3:24-26) and on the other hand he had to deal specifically with the *transgression* of the Jews (because the Torah had turned their sins into transgressions) (Romans 9:15). Scholars cannot serve both masters to they tend to identify with the work that Jesus did without rightly dividing between the two works and they create a confused pastiche.

    Paul convinced James that his gospel to the gentiles, which they were not aware of, was legitimate and they extended a symbolic hand of fellowship for him to go to the gentiles while they, the elect Jews, went to the circumcision.

    Jewish gospel:

    * the day of God’s visitation upon Israel is at hand (Mat 3:10). The fulfillment of this happened within that generation, circa 70ad
    * Christ died to ratify the new covenant with the Jews, which provided for the forgiveness of sins (Heb 12:24)
    * Peter, as a judge of Israel, commands the Jews to repent, receive mikveh and acknowledge Jesus Christ as their messiah (Acts 2:37-39)
    * God is fulfilling ALL of the promises made to *and against* Israel (Luke 21:22)
    * wrath upon ungodly Israel and the resurrection of the Israel of God (Ezek 37:3)
    * when they observe Passover they are to focus their minds on (envision?) Christ’s sacrifice to ratify the covenant (the inverse of Hebrews 10:3)
    * the gospel of the circumcision if replete with sacrificial images, bloodshed, “once for all”, etc.

    The gospel to the gentiles:

    * God is ending his covenant with the Jews (mat 24:3)
    * God is creating a new humanity which is the body of Christ, with Christ as the Head, a new temple where Christ is the chief cornerstone, etc. (Ephesians 2)
    * Christ died as a propitiation for their sins, allowing God to forgive all of them freely if they repent and believe that Christ died for their sins and was raised from the dead (1 Cor 15:1ff)
    * Christ (which includes the saints) was exalted to God’s right hand. This means that the new humanity is placed higher than the high priest, the soldiers, the Emperors and even the angels and demons. Absolutely everything in heaven and earth (short of God himself) is placed under the feet of the new Jerusalem temple (eph 1:15-23)
    * when they trust Christ they are baptized by holy spirit into Christ’s body and are no longer part of the old humanity (IE: they have died with Christ) but alive to God (Roman 8:9)

    Obviously there is overlap and that adds to the tendency to “blur”. For both gospels there is an intense, fever pitch expectation that Christ’s return must occur before 73ad (40 years from when Jesus predicted that he would return to destroy the old temple and live in the new temple of living stones). Faith is a race and salvation is the reward which they will receive if they are found faithful at Jesus imminent return (James 1:12, 1 Cor 9:27).

    And I said all that to say that the “four views” are, I believe, all drawing a box around the picture that is too small.

      • When you write “I think one reason that scholars are so confused about the “atonement” is that Christ’s death was not an “atonement” but rather a “propitiation,” you said so much. For some reason, few preachers or teachers of the Word ever seem to take the time to explore the significant differences between these two words. Our hymns, liturgy, and sermons continue to abound with the word “atonement.” Yet, Jesus did not “atone” for our sins, He removed them once for all. “Atonement” belongs to the sacrificial system before the sacrifice of Jesus. The days of annual, repetitive “atonement” are over.

        • As I see it, an “atonement” is a gesture **made by the perpetrator** to express contrition and appeal for forgiveness, neither of which were required of Jesus since he was without sin.

          The blood of an atonement may not be consumed:

          >>[Lev 17:10-12 NIV] (10) ” ‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. (11) For the life of a creature is in the blood, and **I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar**; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (12) Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.”

          The blood of a blood covenant, such as the new covenant with the houses of Israel and Judah apparently may be and must be eaten:

          [Mat 20:28 NIV] (28) just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom **for many** (IE: the elect Jews).”

          [Mat 26:27-29 NIV] (27) Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. (28) This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (29) I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

          [1Co 10:20-21 WEB] (20) But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have **fellowship with demons**. (21) Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons: ye cannot be **partakers** of the Lord’s table, and of the table of demons.

Written by Faithlife Staff