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Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony Hardcover – November 9, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Christianity Today, "Winner, Biblical Studies"(2007)
Michael Ramsey Prize, "Winner"(2009)

"First Things"
"Bauckham's proposal is both path-breaking and a tour de force."
"Trinity Journal"
"As in all of his works, Bauckham has ransacked obscure secondary literature for little-known but immensely helpful information. He has thought creatively about time-worn problems and uncovered possible interpretations of subtle features of ancient testimony both in the Gospels and about them with the shrewdness of a good detective."
"Westminster Theological Journal"
"Bauckham has delivered a remarkable and insightful volume that is sure to offer a much-needed challenge to the status quo in modern gospel studies."" --This text refers to the Perfect Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

This momentous book argues that the four Gospels are closely based on the eyewitness testimony of those who personally knew Jesus. Noted New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham challenges the prevailing assumption that the accounts of Jesus circulated as anonymous community traditions, asserting instead that they were transmitted in the names of the original eyewitness.

To drive home this controversial point, Bauckham draws on internal literary evidence, the use of personal names in first-century Jewish Palestine, and recent developments in the understanding of oral tradition. "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" also taps into the rich resources of modern study of memory, especially in cognitive psychology, refuting the conclusions of the form critics and calling New Testament scholarship to make a clean break with this long-dominant tradition. Finally, Bauckham challenges readers to end the classic division between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith, proposing instead the Jesus of testimony as presented by the Gospels.

Sure to ignite heated debate on the precise character of the testimony about Jesus, "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" is a groundbreaking work that will be valued by scholars, students, and all who seek to understand the origins of the Gospels. --This text refers to the Perfect Paperback edition.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 552 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (November 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802831621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802831620
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Anything by Bauckham is likely to get a high rating from me, simply by the sheer quality of his work. In this book, he presents several lines of evidence to support his contention that the Gospels constitute or rely upon eyewitness testimony. Before I get into that, though, I'll give you the table of contents:

1) From the Historical Jesus to the Jesus of Testimony

2) Papias on the Eyewitnesses

3) Names in the Gospel Traditions

4) Palestinian Jewish Names

5) The Twelve

6) Eyewitnesses "from the Beginning"

7) The Petrine Perspective in the Gospel of Mark

8) Anonymous Persons in Mark's Passion Narrative

9) Papias on Mark and Matthew

10) Models of Oral Tradition

11) Transmitting the Jesus Traditions

12) Anonymous Tradition or Eyewitness Testimony?

13) Eyewitness Memory

14) The Gospel of John as Eyewitness Testimony

15) The Witness of the Beloved Disciple

16) Papias on John

17) Polycrates and Irenaeus on John

18) The Jesus of Testimony

Bauckham engages in an extensive treatment of Papias. For those of you who don't know, Papias was an early Christian writer who may very well have been cotemporaneous with the disciples of Jesus, as he professes to have been. He makes a number of statements about the Gospels, as do other early Christians. Papias, Bauckham contends, has been somewhat misunderstood and dismissed in recent scholarship. Not only does Bauckham defend Papias by showing his usage of historiographic terms and the notions of historiography at the time, he also provides a better understanding of what Papias is saying.
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I heard many good things about this book, and Richard Bauckham is a terrific New Testament scholar, so I ordered it. His thesis is that the gospels are largely records of eyewitness testimony. He rejects the form critical conclusions of Bultmann and others, and argues that the gospels are more indebted to oral traditions and oral history.

He bases a lot of his views on the reliability of the early 2nd century church father Papias. Papias heard testimony from those who were with the first century Christians. He was told that the Gospel of Mark was a repository of the apostle Peter's memories. He also says that this gospel was the one with the least chronological order.

He also sees John as being the eyewitness testimony of the beloved disciple, who Bauckham takes to be John the Elder (not John the apostle, son of Zebedee).

Bauckham talks alot about the differences between personal memories and collective memories and relates this to the study of the gospels.

Bauckham also has an interesting chapter about the names in the gospels. He arrives at the dubious conclusion that Levi the tax collector in Mark's Gospel is not the same as Matthew the tax collector in Matthew's gospel, believing that the author of Matthew changed the name to apply Levi's story to a bona fide member of the Twelve apostles. Kind of strange.

It is more likely to me that Matthew changed his name from Levi to Matthew because the name "Matthew" is close to the word mathete, meaning "disciple," and Matthew wanted his name to reflect his changed status as a disciple of Jesus.

Other than that, the book was loaded with dense argumentation and analysis, and I had to really concentrate to follow the discussion. This is definitely not light reading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bauckham here does the church and world a significant scholarly favor by taking on the form critical approach and assumptions to the gospel as being nothing other than an outcome of a community formation process of oral tradition, that has been edited, and redited and applied and reapplied. Thus, layer upon layer that needs this search for a supposed authentic Jesus.

Bauckham argues in a thorough and academic way that this is incorrect. Primarily it does not approach the Gospels for what they are: personal engaged eyewitness testimony of the most accepted and solid histoiography of its times. He unloads and unpacks this in over five-hundred pages of engagement with the sources, academia opinions, and critics. He is thorough, articulate and reacts to various schools and opinions.

He finds the break to this modern disengagement of many in academia with the historical Gospel approach through an Enlightenment arrogance to challenge ancient history as not truly being able to know what they were witnessing to. Rather than seeing themselves standing on the shoulders of the history past, they rather see themselves as standing on their own shoulders and judging/rewriting through their interprative tools all history before them.

Bauckham here not only refutes this with the Biblical/historiography evidence, but also with philosophy of epistemology, showing that trust in testimony is critical to interpersonal communication. The Enlightenment's trend to make the individual supreme here needs to move back to the past view of trust in testimony until it can be shown as an unreliable bedrock as faulty memory.
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