A Book Review
Craig Blomberg’s Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey is now in its third edition. First published in 1997, Bloomberg’s work has been updated to benefit a new generation of students, professors, and pastors. According to the introduction, it’s about 6 percent longer than the second edition, mostly due to its footnotes. Some of the material was rewritten for clarity, and additional references were updated. The most visible change is relatively minor—the discussion on canon criticism moved from the chapter on historical criticism (chapter 4) to the chapter on literary criticism (chapter 5). The most valuable change to this edition is definitely the updated footnotes and suggestions for further reading. Ample bibliographies at the end of each chapter suggest additional reading under the categories of introductory, intermediate, and advanced. In addition to these updates, Jesus and the Gospels remains an outstanding treatment of its subject matter.
Jesus and the Gospels is comprised of five parts:
- Historical Background for Studying the Gospels
- Critical Methods for Studying the Gospels
- Introduction to the Four Gospels
- A Survey of the Life of Christ
- Historical and Theological Syntheses
Part 1 serves as an excellent introduction to New Testament study in general with its treatment of political, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Part 2 considers historical and literary criticism. Under Part 3, Blomberg offers a focused description of each of the four gospels, offering what one would expect in an introduction—structure, theology and themes, circumstances, and authorship. Part 4 first discusses modern scholarship on the historical Jesus before summarizing the life of Christ chronologically and defending the historical trustworthiness of the Gospels. Finally, in Part 5, Blomberg distills and comments on the major theological emphases of Jesus.
The material in each of these parts is scholarly, clear, and theologically conservative. The author treats the Gospels as Scripture, carefully explaining their contents and intelligently engaging a wide variety of perspectives. Readers will learn about important issues such as the Dead Sea scrolls. Rather than shaking the foundations of Christianity, these documents shed new light on the Jewish world and the context of Scripture. Blomberg fairly represents many other topics such as the Markan priority and textual criticism. I was happy to note several references to Hixson and Gurry’s Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, which serves as a healthy corrective to common misconceptions about the New Testament text. My only complaint is the lack of graphics. The charts and diagrams are nice, but they’re sparse. In my opinion, the inclusion of more diagrams, charts, and maps would be a plus.
Jesus and the Gospels is an expertly crafted textbook that introduces and evaluates all the major issues. There are other good books on the Gospels. In seminary, I read Mark Strauss’s Four Portraits, One Jesus, which would probably serve best for an undergraduate course. Blomberg has written at a more technical level and includes an abundance of helpful footnotes and references for further study. Jesus and the Gospels would be perfect for an advanced undergraduate or seminary course. Pastors and interested laypeople looking for a thorough and engaging course on the Gospels in book form will find exactly that in this work.
Special thanks to B&H Academic for a free review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.