The Jesus of the Gospels: An Introduction, Andreas J. Köstenberger. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2020.
Summary: An introduction to the four gospels, providing accessible scholarship, introductions and commentary focused on Jesus, to whom each gospel witnesses.
How I wish I had this work as a young Christian reading the New Testament for the first time (the Old Testament would come later). I thought back as I read through this work how much I had missed in my early readings. Sure, I noticed the amazing, and sometimes perplexing, things Jesus taught and did. I noticed the similarities between the first three gospels, and some of the differences but had no sense of why they were different. Then there was John, which seemed so different. But I missed so much that Andreas Köstenberger highlights in this work, designed as a companion for new readers and students of the gospels.
In the introduction and first chapter the author sets out his basic premises for the book. He accepts these as accounts either by witnesses or based on eyewitness accounts that are trustworthy, coherent, and centered on the person of Christ. Rather than provided lengthy discussions of critical scholarship, the focus is on the text in its context. Citing the “quests for the historical Jesus” which often are reflections of the interpreters, Köstenberger’s approach is to allow each gospel to speak for itself, offering four complementary accounts of Jesus life, and he advocates the reading of all four gospels, proceeding in the canonical order.
After the introductory material, the author takes a chapter for each gospel. First he answers the questions of who is the person to whom the gospel is attributed, how they tell the story of Jesus, what their distinctive emphases are and the major contours or outline of the gospel. This is followed by passage by passage commentary of the text with helpful background, and occasional sidebars (for example on “The Herods in the New Testament”). At the end of each section, there is a Recap, summarizing the section and how this connects to the theme.
Köstenberger notes key structural features of each gospels, such as the five sections of teaching in Matthew, or the book of signs and book of exaltation structure of John. He calls attention to the “Markan sandwich” and alerts the reader to instances of this. He shows Luke’s concern for women and the outsider. He also offers a list of suggested resources for those interested in further study (although all of these were written by him!) and a thirty day reading plan to work through the gospels.
The book is a large format paperback that easily lies flat on a desk (or one’s lap) while you are reading your Bible. The commentary is easy to read and often offers applications. This is a great resource for anyone beginning to read the gospels, for anyone wanting to discover Jesus again, or perhaps for the first time.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.