I’m pleased to announce that Energion Publications will be offering a new series of books called Topical Line Drives. This is a branch of our existing Participatory Study Series, and will continue the mission of inviting all church members to participate in the story of God’s action in the world by becoming better informed and putting their knowledge into action.
What is a Topical Line Drive? When I married my wife Jody, I found that I needed to learn baseball. Our oldest son, John Webb, was an MLB pitcher. Amongst the various things I learned to recognize was a line drive. In a line drive the ball is hit and flies fast and straight to its destination. It’s direct and to the point.
In the Participatory Study Series the Topical Line Drive books are designed to demonstrate a point of scholarship directly, clearly, and quickly. They are theological and biblical line drives. This is the efficient way to learn the basics of a topic and how you can come to understand it.
Each of these books will be short (less than 44 pages, around 12,000 words), and will either cover a single topic that will help demonstrate the nuts and bolts of biblical and theological scholarship, or will survey a topic of interest in the Christian community, providing a summary of views and resources for further study.
While they will be short, they are designed for people who want to dig deeper, but need something to get them started.
To open this series, we have chosen a manuscript by Dr. David Alan Black on the authorship of Hebrews, titled The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul. As you can tell from the title, Dave defends Pauline authorship of the book, a view which is well out of the mainstream of Hebrews scholarship. “Almost all scholars today agree that Paul was not the author of Hebrews” says the NLT Study Bible (p. 2082), for example. The Oxford Study Bible (REB) is even more dismissive, saying “There have been many attempts to name the person who wrote this tract (some early Christians even assigned it to Paul), but the author remains anonymous” (p. 1521).
Why choose something that is not within the current scholarly consensus for the first volume? We chose this particular manuscript precisely because it is outside the consensus. What Dave does here is demonstrate how one argues against a consensus. In doing so, he also demonstrates the type of data and logic that goes into making a decision about authorship. We are publishing this book in this series for that purpose.
I do not concern myself on a day to day basis with what various people think about who wrote the book of Hebrews. It just isn’t essential. It’s very interesting, and I enjoy reading about it. It’s just not a key topic. But what does concern me is the number of Christians who simply accept what is said about authorship in their study Bibles or Bible handbooks. This is especially true when they don’t compare this information with what can be found in study Bibles or handbooks written from a different perspective. But just working from my own book shelf, I will get different answers with regard to authorship and dating if I read the introductions in my Oxford Study Bible (REB) or my NLT Study Bible, or any one of a number of other Bibles. Which should I believe? The answer for too many Christians will be to believe the one that is closest to their own faith tradition, or the one they are used to, even if there is disagreement within that tradition.
So Dave has adapted a scholarly article to provide readers the opportunity to learn just how this sort of issue is argued amongst scholars. I’m not suggesting that a layperson will overcome the need to consult competent scholarship. What I hope is that more and more laypeople will make the effort to evaluate the scholarship they read, and to compare it to the works of others.
The second book in the series will be somewhat different, God the Creator: The Variety of Christian Views on Origins. As a joint effort of several contributors, it will survey Christian views of origins. The purpose is not to persuade anyone of any particular view, but rather to show how Christians have responded to Scripture and Science on this important topic. Many Christians are unaware of the differences. I have personally encountered people who were unaware that anyone believed the earth (or universe) is about 6,000 years old, and also those who believe that no Christian could possibly accept the theory of evolution. Some are also not aware that there are a number of mediating views, such as Old Earth creationism, ruin and restoration, and other ideas.
There are substantial numbers of Christians in those different camps. What do they believe? Where can you find more information from advocates of those positions so that you can make an informed decision? Our second volume, God the Creator, will point the way.
We are working on additional volumes on what Protestants need to know about Catholics (and vice-versa), salvation, prayer, and a number of others.
All volumes in this series will be priced at $4.99 retail. With our quantity discount schedule, they can be purchased for as little as $3.24 each in quantities of 50 or more. Ebook editions will be just 99¢, and will be available either simultaneously with or just a few days after the print release.
If you are interested in contributing a volume to this series, check our submission standards.
There are a couple of additional considerations:
- There is no flexibility on the upper limit of the length of manuscript. If you are over 13,000 words, your manuscript is not right for this series.
- If you use complex or specialized terminology, it must be explained, and those explanations are part of the 13,000 word limit.
- If you want to write a survey of a topic, make sure that you can represent all of the viewpoints involved reasonably and generously.
- This is not the place to propose new scholarly ideas. Publish in the peer-reviewed literature first. Adaptations of scholarly articles are good, provided they reach our audience, but for anything outside the mainstream we will be looking for prior scholarly publication. This is not to prevent new ideas from getting a hearing. Rather, it is to make sure that we are demonstrating good scholarship for series readers.
- This series is not the place to make money. We are pricing these books for accessibility with limited margins. We will be paying royalties, but they will be a percentage of a very small margin.
— Henry Neufeld