Review: The Fourfold Gospel

26266705The Fourfold Gospel: A Theological Reading of the New Testament Portraits of Jesus by Francis Watson is a similarly exciting, and yet abbreviated exploration of Watson’s previous tome, Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective (Eerdmans, 2013). According to Watson, “The present attempt at a theological reading focuses throughout on the texts within that boundary [previously established in Gospel Writing] and on the theological questions they put to their interpreter, both individually and in their relation to one another” (p. viii). Much of this groundwork is established and revisited in the Prolegomena section that opens the book. It is here that the reader becomes thoroughly equipped for the fascinating journey ahead.

The Fourfold Gospel is divided into two major sections. The initial section seeks to establish each of the four Gospel accounts within the portrait of Jesus offered by the author. These turn out to be perspectives that are not only different in nature, but also complementary. Watson’s care and attentiveness to the overall framework of each Gospel is admirable, and without losing focus of the whole, Watson is able to seamlessly equip readers with the proper lenses needed to observe the major convergences discussed in the second section. It is here that Watson applauds the formative work of Eusebius’ Canon Tables in the establishment of a fourfold Gospel book and further delineates his thesis by examining the shared narrative across all four Gospels.

Overall, I found Watson’s work to be extremely beneficial and informative for reading and understanding the canonical gospels. I appreciated the unified approach that Watson embodied as he wrestled with their similarities and differences, as well as the challenges that have been created by a “gospel harmonies” reading of the narratives. As Watson rightly notes, “gospel harmonies created far more problems than they solved. It seems that the fourfold gospel is not intended to provide a singular “life of Jesus” in which each incident and saying is assigned to its original historical context. Its relation to reality is more complex—and more interesting—than that” (p. 88). This observation alone helps reconcile more internal problems than most other attempts traditionally seen combined, and this is only one of many nuggets to be unearthed in this study.

The Fourfold Gospel: A Theological Reading of the New Testament Portraits of Jesus by Francis Watson is a significant contribution to the ongoing exploration of contemporary Gospel Studies. It is a welcome companion, and, in many ways an extended appendix to Watson’s previous book Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective. Watson has invited the reader into a world that had been plagued by the displeasure of recurring academic dust and has effectively breathed within it a newfound sense of vibrancy and life. Watson’s undeniable expertise and his ability to communicate to a broad readership had already position this book for success, even prior to its publication. However, what was previously expected now looks petty compared to what Watson actually delivered. The Fourfold Gospel is a book that you will want to read, and do so more than once. It comes highly recommended!!     

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity

173611Paul Barnett (Ph.D., London University) is recognized by many in the field of New Testament studies as one of the most respected historical scholars on the origins of Christianity. As well as being an Emeritus Faculty member of Moore Theological College, Barnett is currently a fellow in ancient history at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and a teaching fellow at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. Barnett has authored numerous books, including a number of commentaries and monographs related to the various aspects of New Testament studies.

Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times has been long acknowledged as a quintessential classic at the top of Barnett’s lengthy literary corpus. Barnett guides the reader through the complexities of the Hellenistic backdrop that characterized much of the culture during the ministry of Jesus—from the incarnation to the resurrection—and the development of the New Testament Church. The approach is both comprehensive and readable, and Barnett firmly roots his research in primary source material. This affords the reader a better grasp of the New Testament from within its historical context, and thus, allows for a better recognition of the significance of the early Jesus movement within the first century world.

The scope of this volume is quite impressive. Not only is the reader exposed to the historical landscape of the New Testament, but Barnett has likewise interwoven detailed interaction with contemporary critical scholarship concerning the Historical Jesus and other related issues. It is here that Barnett does well in demonstrating the historical shortcomings of the critical attempt to construct a chasm between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. Moreover, the reader will certainly appreciate the emphasis Barnett places on the Christological motivation that underlined the missionary effort of the early Christian community, as well as the imperative nature of a bodily resurrection in early Christian worship. This is by any measure a breath of fresh air brought to a table that is far too often plagued with canonical discontinuity and confusion, and for this readers everywhere should rejoice!

Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times by Paul Barnett is an invaluable resource that should be read and re-read by anyone interested in the origins of early Christianity. Barnett is judicious and clear as usual, and his treatment therein is nothing short of comprehensive. Barnett leaves the eager reader with nearly no stones left to turn. This is a volume that should be consulted by many and done so often, both in the church and in the academy. It comes highly recommended!

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: A Biblical History of Israel

A-Biblical-History-of-Israel-Second-EditionA Biblical History of Israel by Iain Provan, V. Philips Long, and Tremper Longman III has been a useful and well-respected textbook for over a decade. It has been received with both praise and criticism for its unapologetic approach in the reconstruction of Israel by scholars and students alike, but the former has always seemed outweighed the latter. Now, significantly revised and updated, this second edition of A Biblical History of Israel proves to be more refined and useful than ever.

If the reader is familiar with the previous edition of the book, the content, and organization of this second edition is largely the same as before. In part one, the authors provide a helpful review of the various scholarly approaches to the historiography of ancient Israel and argue against the minimalist consensus that seeks to negate the use of the Bible as a primary source for such task. This section constructs a needed framework for the conversation and provides the reader with a useful introduction to the issues surrounding historiography and ancient Israel.

In part two, the authors shape a history of ancient Israel from the time of Abraham to the Persian Period (2000 to 400 BCE) by integrating biblical sources, extrabiblical sources, and a number of relevant archaeological discoveries. In regards to the latter, the second edition has been thoroughly updated to concur with the most recent archaeological data and discoveries over the past decade, as well as new references have been added and updated. This section has and continues to be a helpful reference for the reader. It is well-documented throughout, clearly stated, convincingly argued, and judiciously presented.

Additionally, in this second edition of the book, the authors have intentionally sought to address a large array of criticism against the effort of the first edition. This interaction is witnessed throughout the book and makes for a more engaging read that is certain be enjoyed by readers of all persuasions. The authors have also included a designated appendix that is aimed more specifically at the criticism against the first edition, and the attentive reader is sure to find this level of interaction helpful. In total, there is approximately 60 pages of additional material, as well as the inclusion of a number of maps and charts for the reader’s use.

A Biblical History of Israel has been a useful and respected resource since first being published in 2003. This second edition has been clearly built upon a solid foundation. As expected, much of the content and organization that made the first edition successful has remained, but with this second edition, the reader has been provided a thoroughly revised, updated, and refined engagement with issues related to the history of ancient Israel. Add the intentional effort of the authors to interact with the criticism of the first edition and you have a recipe for a must-have and up-to-date volume for biblical studies enthusiasts everywhere.

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: The Resurrection of Jesus

9780830827190Discussion surrounding the resurrection of Jesus has traditionally hosted a long list of scholarly voices. Still, few names are more present to the contemporary conversation than Michael R. Licona (PhD, University of Pertoria). Licona is Associate Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate on the Resurrection (Baker, 2006) and coauthor with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004). Licona is also the author and/or contributor to a number of academic articles relating to various topics surrounding Jesus and the resurrection. Still, Licona’s most lasting contribution to the discussion of the resurrection to date is his massive doctoral dissertation turned monograph case study, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010).

Licona begins The Resurrection of Jesus with an excellent survey of the various theories and methods that relate to the task of a historiographical approach. This is an important starting point for the reader as it effectively builds the framework for the next 600+ pages. Subsequently, Licona investigates the objections to historical considerations of miracle-claims purported by individuals such as David Hume, Bart D. Ehrman, John P. Meier, and many more. Licona displays how each objection fails and why the hesitancy for such historical approach to the investigation of miracle-claims is unwarranted. Again, this further builds the framework of Licona’s conclusion and the reader is certain to appreciate the care take in his evaluation. Following the introductory matters of the first few sections, Licona systematically evaluates and analyzes the historical sources and evidence before weighing the various critical approaches to such. This is the crux of Licona’s effort and he presents his position in a fair and articulate fashion.

The Resurrection of Jesus is the most comprehensive historical investigation on the event of the resurrection that I have encountered to date. Licona leaves no corner of the conversation untouched, and the high points of the book are many. However, for the sake of space, I will name two. First, I think that many readers will find the evaluation of the historical sources in chapter three to be extremely helpful and carefully examined. Licona discusses both canonical and noncanonical sources, as well as Christian and non-Christian writings from the initial centuries of the Christian church. Each source is individually evaluated in regards to its importance in the historicity of the resurrection, and Licona does an excellent job approaching the sources objectively. Second, after evaluating the sources and beyond, Licona provides outstanding interaction with the various resurrection theories. This section is helpful in allowing the reader to digest and put the resurrected puzzle pieces together in the shape of Licona’s historiographical approach—although Licona is good about not telling you what to believe, but rather how to think.

The Resurrection of Jesus is a phenomenal work that deserves a permanent space on the bookshelf of anyone interested in wrestling with the implications of the resurrection for the Christian worldview. Licona is trustworthy in his examination of the evidence, and the fact that this is a polished presentation of his doctoral dissertation written at a secular university under skeptical eyes makes it even more intriguing. To be fair, this book isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s big, really big! It’s detailed, really detailed! But, if you are looking for a comprehensive examination into the historicity of the most important event in the history of mankind, then The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by Michael R. Licona will be worth twice its weight in gold.
I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: A Political History of the Bible in America

066426039XPaul D. Hanson is the Florence Corliss Lamont Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School where he has taught Old Testament for over forty years. In 1970, Hanson received a PhD from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. Hanson is the author or co-author of several books and a number of noted Old Testament commentaries, including Isaiah 40-66 from the highly acclaimed Interpretation series, 2 Chronicles: A Commentary from the esteemed Hermeneia series, Political Engagement as Biblical Mandate, The People Called: The Growth of Community in the Bible, and many more. Most recently, with the release of A Political History of the Bible in America, Hanson has provided a substantial investigation into the religiopolitical relationship that permeates American civilization.

A Political History of the Bible in America is a massive volume that leaves virtually no stone unturned. Still I must admit at the outset of this review that I am by no means an expert or specialist on American politics, nor American history. At best one could classify me as an interested spectator in a culturally familiar game. But, then again, this makes me a somewhat interesting candidate to do a review on a book of this magnitude.

Hanson begins with a lengthy prologue in which he builds a workable framework for the road ahead, and constructs a compelling case for the overall aim of the book. Hanson explains, “Biblical history, enriched by many religious and cultural traditions, flows into and is intertwined with our nation’s epic, both for better and for worse. To ignore that history is to cut ourselves off from our roots and to deny the ancestral experiences that forged our individual and collective identity” (p. 23). It is here that A Political History of the Bible in America divides into two major parts: (1) a historical retrospective on the relation between the Bible and politics in the United States, and (2) politics in the Bible.

In part one, Hanson traces the history of America back to the colonial times, starting with the theocratic model of the Puritans, paying close attention to the role of biblical tradition in the development of the national story of the United States. Hanson summarizes this objective, writing, “our objective is to examine the relationship between religion and politics in US history and identify the theo-political models that were adopted and developed to shape that relationship” (p. 29). As a nonspecialist, I found this section to be both clear and compelling. Hanson quickly drew me into the historical portrait that he was painting. Nevertheless, I found myself wanting more as I entered into the following section. This is largely a result of the brevity of the first part, but also due to Hanson’s ability to pull the reader into the details of the story.

In part two, Hanson directs the reader’s attention to the biblical framework in which the political underpinnings of American life have developed. To call this section a detailed study would be a minor understatement at over 500 pages. Hanson surveys both the Old and the New Testament in chronological order and presents a comprehensive study of politics in the Bible. I found this section to be rich with interpretive insight, especially when it involved discussion of the Old Testament Prophets. It is clear that Hanson is in his stride here. Another notable section was the lengthy chapter on the politics of Jesus, where Hanson aims to entertain the historical Jesus conversation and political implications of such simultaneously. Finally, the expedition comes to a close, as Hanson considers the proper methodological approach of biblical interpretation for the changing landscape of contemporary American culture.

As mentioned above, I am not a political enthusiast nor an expert on American history. Still, I find both to interesting and intriguing for various reasons (hence, the desire to read and review this book), and inevitably I engage in both on a daily basis as an American citizen. Overall, Hanson has provided a fascinating and compelling study of the religiopolitical relationship in America and beyond, and I appreciate his effort in writing an accessible volume that can be enjoyed by readers of all educational backgrounds. I think that some readers will unavoidably disagree with Hanson’s interpretive method of the biblical text, but they should still be able to appreciate the biblical and theological lenses in which he wears. If you’re even slightly interested in submerging yourself into the world of American politics, then I would highly recommend finding a place for A Political History of the Bible in America in your library. It’s well worth the investment.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.