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The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences
From The Publisher:
This volume challenges the current consensus in New Testament scholarship that each of the Gospels was written for a specific church or group of churches. These essays argue, from a wide range of evidence, that the Gospels were intended for general circulation throughout all the early churches and, hence, were written for all Christians.
Loveday Alexander, Stephen C. Barton, Richard Bauckham, Richard Burridge, Michael B. Thompson, and Francis Watson examine such topics as the extent of communication between early Christian churches, book production and circulation in the Graeco-Roman world, the Gospel genre and its audience, the relationships between the Gospels, the faulty enterprise of reconstructing Gospel communities, and the hermeneutical and theological pitfalls of reading the Gospels as community texts. By putting in question a large body of assumptions that are almost universally accepted in contemporary scholarship, this book could fundamentally change both the method and the findings of Gospel interpretation.
This is a wonderful book, a bombshell in the playground of New Testament study. In writing on interpretation I have felt vaguely uneasy about the notion that the unmentioned specific congregation is of key importance to understanding Gospel narrative, but I lacked the imaginative spark to query this universal “given.” Now Richard Bauckham and his friends have called the bluff. “Obvious” after “obvious” point (for instance, Gospels are different from Epistles; why should anyone write a narrative for their own congregation?) draws forth a grin, a “Yes,” and a punch into the air from the reader. They also tell us lots of fascinating things about the real world in which the Gospels were written and disseminated, and point out some of the presuppositions of the consensus they explode and the significance of the case they press. I look forward to watching the fallout.
Not many books on the canonical Gospels are truly groundbreaking, but this one is. Richard Bauckham and his colleagues convincingly challenge one of the most deeply rooted assumptions of contempoary scholarship, namely, that the Gospels were written out of and for fairly restrictive early communities that enjoyed relatively little contact with the whole church. This book persuasively argues that both in intent and in reality the Gospels were written for “all Christians.” It deserves the widest possible circulation among pastors, students, and scholars alike, and it promises to revamp more than one shibboleth.
—D. A. Carson
The thesis that from the very beginning the four Gospels were intended not only for specific communities but also, and above all, for a general early Christian readership is substantiated by Bauckham and his coauthors in a historically clear and plausible fashion. This thesis is immediately obvious exegetically and hopefully will win quick acceptance. Bauckham’s view helps overcome a whole range of problems left unsolved by the form- and redaction-critical investigation of the Gospels that has been dominant until now, and it gives us a new perception of the Gospels’ significance as narrative proclamations of the life and messianic deeds of Jesus.
Unexamined assumptions are the bane of Gospel criticism. In this easily accessible, very readable symposium a group of leading scholars argues against the assumption that the Gospels were written for specific communities and reasserts that they were meant for reading by Christians everywhere. This thesis has important implications for the fashionable pursuit of reconstructing the readerships of the Gospels and then trying to explain the Gospels’ contents in terms of their readers’ needs; the way back to taking the Gospels seriously as biographies of Jesus is freed from yet another obstacle. This is a major work that could seriously alter the character of contemporary Gospel study for the better.
—I. Howard Marshall
A serious and helpful contribution to New Testament study that deserves to be engaged by other scholars.
—The Bible Today
Bauckham and his colleagues write persuasively against the consensus of modern Gospel scholarship. Fascinating reading.
[One] assumption of much modern Gospel study is the idea that each Gospel was written for a specific church or group of churches. This challenge to the current consensus … contends that the Gospels were really intended for more general circulation …. A challenge that ought not to be ignored.
On occasion, books or articles appear that are truly groundbreaking or paradigm shifting… The Gospels for All Christians is one of these foundational works.
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About the Author
Richard Bauckham is the Professor of New Testament studies and the Bishop Wardlaw Professor at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
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