Feast of St Mark, Bishop of Arethusa
Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels As Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham
THE ROLE of eyewitnesses in transmitting true information about Jesus and his ministry is affirmed in many crucial passages of the New Testament, epitomized in the First Epistle of John: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life . . . we proclaim to you.” The trustworthiness of these claims has been contested of course, especially since the rise of critical New Testament scholarship over the past couple of centuries. With its generally reigning axiom that wide gaps separate the Gospels and the actual events they portray, brilliant and painstaking scholarship has focused on methods of distilling historical realities from theologically inflected Gospel traditions. Richard Bauckham’s new book insists that eyewitness claims and testimonies played a critical and decisive role in shaping the Gospels, and that these claims and their content can be trusted. Drawing on an unusual mix of material – the study of oral tradition, the importance of names in the ancient world and the significance of their attachment to texts, cognitive psychology, and early patristic descriptions of the origins of the Gospels – Bauckman argues that “the period between the ‘historical’ Jesus and the Gospels was actually spanned, not by anonymous community transmission, but by the continuing presence and testimony of the eyewitnesses, who remained the authoritative sources of their traditions until their deaths.” His claims will certainly be dissected and hotly contested within the guild of New Testament scholars, but Bauckham’s own credentials are impressive, and his conclusions a refreshingly positive response to the fundamental questions concerning the reliability of the Gospels.
538 pp. paper $30.00
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