I’ve long enjoyed reading and studying the Gospels, because they help me gain a deeper understanding of who Jesus is, what He has done and what He demands of me as His follower. Every time I read the Gospels, I gain a fresh and deeper understanding of all Jesus has done for me which leads me to worship Him all the more for all He has done on my behalf. In his new book Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction Dr. Jonathan Pennington seeks to help “any reader who is interested in learning how to engage the gospels more deeply and how to apply them for personal study and or preaching or teaching. This book aims to offer both a deeper opening to introductory issues in the gospels and a specific narrative, pedagogical and homiletical model” (xiii).
Reading the Gospels Wisely has three parts. In part one the author seeks to define what the Gospels are, why we need the Gospels, gives the testimony to the Four Gospels, and then moves to explain how to read Scripture and the Gospels well. In part two, the author seeks to explain his hermeneutical method and in the final part applies his teaching.
Many today question and doubt the credibility of the Gospels but the judicious interpreter will evaluate these documents with an understanding of their conventions of their day. Students of the Gospels ought not to force modern conventions onto the Gospels but must understand that the use of paraphrase and the telescoping of events where legitimate devices. In addition, given that there were four different writers involved one should not expect them to recount every detail in an identical fashion. Moreover, there is sufficient agreement in the relating of accounts and the placement of events to engender confidence in the Evangelists’ credibility. Consequent, any approach to the interpretation of the Gospels must begin with the presumption that the Gospels are historically accurate and reliable.
The author of this book rather than wanting everyone to be convinced of every thing that he teaches in his book wants his readers to “be invited into the joy of studying the Gospels more deeply and more often. And most of all my desire is that readers will not be merely hearers but responders by faith to the clarion call of the love of god in Jesus Christ as presented in the Gospels. To do less than this would, according to the most important idea of the book, to fail to read the Gospels wisely” (258). The author accomplishes his goal of helping the reader understand more of the Gospels intent and purpose by walking readers through not only issues that affect how people understand the Gospels but proposing how the reader of the Gospels can read the Gospels wisely through taking their meaning and thus their interpretation seriously.
Reading the Gospels is a book that will help Bible college and seminary students, and those engaged in the teaching ministry of the Church to understand not only the issues surrounding the Gospels in the past, but also in the present. Reading the Gospels well requires skill and thankfully Dr. Pennington is a skilled teacher who will help you to understand the issues and then equip you to help others read the Gospels wisely. Reading the Gospels Wisely is a challenging but welcome introduction that I heartily commend to Pastors and seminarians.
Publisher: Baker Academic (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Baker Academic book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”