Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Review: Discovering Jesus: Why Four Gospels To Portray One Person

Discovering Jesus: Why Four Gospels to Portray One Person? T.D. Alexander. 2010. Crossway Publishers. 144 pages. 

The preface reads,
most Christians do not have a particularly clear understanding of them. Two factors possibly explain this. First, the contents of Matthew, Mark, and Luke overlap considerably. This makes distinguishing between them difficult, and for many Christians, these Gospels tend to blur together. Second, the Gospels are often read in piecemeal fashion. Short passages are taken from here and there, without any meaningful attempt being made to see them within the context of a whole Gospel. As a result, exceptionally few Christians, even among those who are educated theologically, are able to describe with certainty the distinctive features and themes of each Gospel.
If you think this is an overstatement, test yourself and your Christian friends with a few questions: How do the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke differ from each other? What is distinctive about each? How does Mark's picture of Jesus differ from that of Matthew (or Luke, or John)? Why is John's Gospel quite unlike the others? Even mature Christians will struggle to answer these questions. (13)
I didn't quite agree with everything T.D. Alexander said in the preface about Christians struggling with the four gospels. And I didn't quite agree with everything T.D. Alexander said to "explain" away the "Synoptic Problem." But. For the most part, I learned from reading Discovering Jesus: Why Four Gospels To Portray One Person. I found it well organized and written in a straightforward, matter-of-fact way.

Here are the chapter titles:

  • A Brief Overview of the Four Gospels
  • Common Themes in the Gospels
  • Mark's Gospel and the Son of God
  • Mark's Gospel and Discipleship
  • Matthew's Gospel and Conflict
  • Matthew's Gospel and the Son of David
  • Luke's Gospel and the Holy Spirit
  • Luke's Gospel and Saving the Lost
  • John's Gospel and Believing
  • John's Gospel and a New Exodus
  • The Composition of the Gospels
  • Review and Final Observations

There are a couple of charts to help you "see" things the way he does. And there are discussion/study questions at the end of each gospel. The book covers the basics of the gospel. And because it is so basic, because it covers the essentials in an easy-to-understand way, this one might be a good choice for small groups to read together. 

Curious about how concise Alexander is in "summing" up the differences between each gospel?

Matthew's Jesus -- The Son of David who establishes the kingdom of heaven
Mark's Jesus -- The Son of God who suffers to ransom others
Luke's Jesus -- The Savior of the world who seeks the lost
John's Jesus -- The Lamb of God who brings eternal life through a new exodus

In particular I enjoyed reading his thoughts on the gospel of John. I'd never seen John from that perspective before. He compares John with Exodus, makes comparisons between Jesus and Moses. Points out that Moses gave "signs" to the people--both Hebrews and Egyptians just as Jesus gave signs. Once he pointed out a couple of similarities, I started making connections of my own.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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