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What introductory reading can I do?

Prospective applicants

Prospective applicants are encouraged to consult this list for suggestions on how to begin to extend your super-curricular interests in religion. If you would like to know more details about the specifics of the Cambridge course, you can find the paper descriptions here.  

Upcoming students: preparatory reading list 

Upcoming students may be interested in doing some preliminary reading prior to coming to Cambridge, to explore the different subjects and modules or papers on offer. This can help you with your paper selection once you arrive. The articles and books marked with an asterisk (*) are essential reading for each course. There is no expectation that you invest heavily in books before you arrive, as our library is very well stocked and holds multiple copies of most books on the reading lists.

More information about each paper can be found here.

Paper 1: Languages

Hebrew (Paper A1A)

  • Lambdin, Thomas. Introduction to Biblical Hebrew. (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1973)* This can be purchased at Heffers in Cambridge.

Greek (Paper A1B)

  • Duff, J. Elements of New Testament Greek (3rd edn; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)*

Sanskrit (Paper A1C)

  • Coulson, M., Sanskrit: an introduction to the Classical Language (2nd edn; London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1992)*

Arabic (Paper A1D)

  • Haywood, J. A. & Nahmad, H. M. A., A New Arabic Grammar of the Written Language (London: Lund Humphries, 1990)*

General Books on the Bible and its Interpretation

  • Grant, R. M. & Tracy, D. A., Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible (London: SCM, 1984)
  • Hayes, J. H. & Holladay, C. R., Biblical Exegesis: A Beginner's Handbook (3rd edn; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2010)
  • Alter, R. & Kermode, F., The Literary Guide to the Bible (London: Collins, 1987)
  • Soskice, J.M., The Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Found the Hidden Gospels (London: Chatto & Windus, 2009).

Old Testament: David (Paper A2)

  • McKenzie, S.L., King David: A Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)*
  • Alter, R., The Art of Biblical Narrative (London: Basic Books, 2011)
  • Dietrich, W., The Early Monarchy in Israel: The Tenth Century B.C.E. (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007)
  • Rogerson, J. W. & Davies, P., The Old Testament World (2nd edn; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2006)
  • Rogerson, J. W. (ed.), Beginning Old Testament Study (London: SPCK, 1983)

New Testament: Jesus and the Origins of the Gospels (Paper A3)

  • Johnson, L. T., The Writings of the New Testament (London: SCM, 1999)
  • Court, J. & K., The New Testament World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)
  • Tuckett, C., Reading the New Testament (London: SPCK, 1987)
  • Barrett, C. K., The New Testament Background: Selected Documents (London: SPCK, 1956)
  • Moule, C. F. D., The Birth of the New Testament (London: A & C Black, 3rd ed., 1981)
  • E. P. Sanders,  The Historical Figure of Jesus (London: Allen Lane, 1993)
  • M Bockmuehl (ed.),  The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)

History: Christianity and the Transformation of Culture (Paper A4)

  • Brown, P., Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire (Madison,WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992)
  • Markus, R., The End of Ancient Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)
  • Clark, G., Christianity and Roman Society (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004)

The Question of God (Paper A5)

  • Davis, Stephen T. (ed.), Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2004)
  • Fergusson, David. Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2014)
  • Ford, David F., Theology: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • Migliore, Daniel L. Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2004).
  • Solle, Dorothee. Thinking about God: An Introduction to Theology (London: SCM, 1990)

Understanding Contemporary Religion (Paper A6)

  • Aldridge, A., Religion in the Contemporary World (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000)
  • Barker, E., The Making of a Moonie: Brainwashing or Choice (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984)
  • Bruce, S., Religion in the Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)
  • Davie, G., Religion in Britain since 1945 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994)
  • Davie, G., Europe: The Exceptional Case (London: DLT, 2002)
  • Hamilton, M. B., The Sociology of Religion (2nd edn; London: Routledge, 2001)

World Religions (Paper A7)

  • Neusner, J. & Sonn, T., Comparing Religions Through Law: Judaism and Islam (London: Routledge, 1999)
  • McCutcheon, R. T., The Insider/Outsider Problem in the Study of Religion: A Reader (London: Cassell, 1999)
  • de Lange, N.R.M., An Introduction to Judaism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)
  • Waines, D., An Introduction to Islam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)
  • Lipner, J. J., Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (London: Routledge, 1994)

Philosophy of Religion (Paper A8)

  • Brian Davies, Introduction to Philosophy of Religion (Oxford, 3rd edition, 2004)
  • Edward Feser, Five Proofs of the Existence of God (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2017)
  • John Haldane and J.J.C. Smart, Atheism and Theism (London: Blackwell, 1996)
  • David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss (New Haven: Yale, 2014)
  • Richard Swinburne, Is There a God? (Oxford, revised edition, 2010)
  • Charles Taliaferro, Evidence and Faith: Philosophy and Religion Since the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, 2005)
  • Burrell, D., Knowing the Unknowable God: Ibn-Sina, Maimonides and Aquinas (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986)

Ethics (Paper A9)

  • John Hare, God’s Call: Moral Realism, God’s Commands, and Human Autonomy (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001)
  • Fergus Kerr, After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), ch. 7
  • Alasdair MacIntyre, A Short History of Ethics: A History of Moral Philosophy from the Homeric Age to the Twentieth Century (London: Routledge, 2nd ed., 1998)
  • Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (London: Duckworth, 1981), ch. 1, ch. 2, ch. 9, ch. 18
  • Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good (London: Routledge, 1970), ch. 2
  • Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), esp. Part I, Part II, and Part IV 
  • William Wainwright, Religion and Morality (London and New York: Routledge, 2005), esp. Part I and Part II
  • Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), ch. 1 and ch. 10


  • Dixon, T.M., How to Get a First (London: Routledge, 2004). This book gives advice on teaching and learning styles and how to manage time and lectures in the Arts & Humanities. It has a helpful section on making the transition from school to university