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Jesus and the Gospels – An Introduction and Survey, A Book Review
Bloomberg, CL Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey.
Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997.
Blomberg, professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary in Colorado, is also the author of Parable Interpretation and Historical Credibility and several articles in popular journals (for example “The Seventy-Four Scholars: Who Is the Jesus Seminar Really Talking About? In Christian Research Journal. In the text under review, he discusses the historical reliability of the Gospels by juxtaposing it with the theology of Jesus. An evaluation of the book’s five parts shows that anyone who wishes to seriously study the Gospels and their central figure, Jesus of Nazareth, must to become familiar with the history of the time and the work of scholars engaged in the research of the New Testament.
In the first part, Blomberg discusses the historical background for the study of the Gospels. He actually begins with an overview of the intertestamental period (last quarter of the fifth century BC to the first century AD) highlighting the contributions of Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities and the Jewish War, and other writings such as the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Blomberg’s strong argument is that major developments such as the Jews under Persian rule (ca. 424-331 BCE), Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic period (331-167 BCE), Greek rule under Alexander (331-323 BCE), the Egyptian. under the Ptolemies (323-198 BC), Syrian rule under the Seleucids (198-167 BC), the Maccabean revolt and the Hasmonean dynasty (167063 BC), the Roman period (63 BC to the New Testament era), should be studied. to correctly interpret the situation of the Jews at the time of Jesus. In the religious realm, Jews were exposed to beliefs such as Hellenistic religion, traditional mythology, philosophies such as Stoicism, Epicureanism, Cynicism and Neopythagoreanism, mystery religions, Gnosticism, and emperor worship. The overview of the socio-economic background helps us to read the Gospels better.
The second part is a relevant survey of some of the critical or analytical tools used by scholars to aid in their understanding of how the Gospels emerged in their current form. These include lower or textual criticism and higher criticism, which is further divided into two broad disciplines: historical criticism and literary criticism. His discussion of structuralism, poststructuralism, narrative, source, form, editing, and canonical criticism is impressive. When critically analyzed, the survey concludes that there is a legitimate place for the historical, theological, and literary study of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. One can overlook the dimensions of the texts and misinterpret them if they are not studied together.
The Canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are presented in the third chapter. Among the issues discussed in each book are the structure, theology, and other distinctive themes, circumstances, or purpose of writing and meeting. A careful study of the first three gospels or synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke) reveals a fundamental difference with John. The baptism of Jesus, the Transfiguration, the parables, the Lord’s Supper, to name a few, are central to the synoptics that are absent in John. Furthermore, there are also some prominent theological differences. Although the background and significance of the logos have been debated over and over again, only John refers to Jesus as ‘the Word’ (Greek, logos). Blomberg’s study of the gospels is impressive. For example, in discussing the Sermon on the Mount, he notes that there are some thirty-six approaches to interpreting its basic message and clearly summarizes eight including traditional Catholic, Lutheran, Anabaptist, old liberal, and postmillennial, temporal, existentialist ethics , classic. dispensational and royal theology. His assessment is that although each carries an element of truth, the latter seemed to have completely captured the right approach.
Blomberg analyzes the life of Christ in the fourth part paying close attention to His birth, childhood, early and later ministries, additional teachings of Jesus in Matthew, Luke and John, passion, crucifixion and resurrection. It clearly shows the Jesus Seminar’s tendency to emphasize the sayings of Jesus, which is rightly criticized. To Blomberg’s credit, therefore, is his conscious desire to keep history and theology in balance.
He successfully attempts a historical and theological synthesis as he discusses the historical reliability of the gospels and the theology of Jesus in the fifth section. He reasonably discusses textual criticism, authorship and date, purpose and genre, criteria of authenticity, and specific external evidence. The contributions of archaeology, non-Christian workers, post-New Testament Christian writers, and the testimony of the rest of the New Testament cannot be underestimated. A careful study of Blomberg’s final chapter on the theology of Jesus is necessary to understand His actions, use, and response to various Christological titles, most notably Son of Man, Son of God, God, and Messiah. Other key strengths include its leading questions that help focus the reading. These questions for consideration help the reader think about the contemporary relevance of the New Testament writings. The numerous illustrations are user-friendly. The theological perspective is evangelical, but other positions are often noted, and suggestions for further reading include literature from various persuasions. Section headings make it easy to follow the structure of the text.
A weakness may be that Blomberg fails to discuss at length the contribution of Paul’s understanding of Christ’s redemptive death that he cited. Notwithstanding the above, Blomberg aptly notes that while the major themes in Paul’s theology may seem superficially different from Jesus’ own thought, they also suggest stronger lines of continuity.
I strongly recommend this relevant book to theological students, lay people who wish to deepen their biblical roots, and pastors and scholars seeking a current overview of the state of a wide field of Gospel studies.
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