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'Bauckham's proposal is both path-breaking and a tour de force.' --First Things; '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.' --Trinity 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.' --Westminster Theological Journal
--This text refers to the Perfect Paperback edition.
About the Author
Richard Bauckham is Professor of New Testament Studies and Bishop Wardlow Professor at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. A Fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, his recent books include The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting, published by Eerdmans.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Since Bauckham is one of my favorite NT scholars, I chose to review this book for one of my graduate classes. After finishing the book, I was disappointed with the argumentation. I thought he made a solid case for the Petrine origin of Mark, but his treatment of John was much less powerful (though it seems to be more important to him in the course of the book). Anyhow, I figured that the review I wrote for class, highly constrained by the word limit, might help someone. So I am posting it here. Cheers :-)
Did the Evangelists draw from densely elaborated oral tradition when writing the gospels, or did they access eyewitness testimony? As a direct challenge to form criticism, Bauckham argues that oral tradition had a very small role to play in the formation of the gospels, with the result "that the texts of our Gospels are close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus." (240) Fully aware that his position runs counter "to almost all recent New Testament scholarship," (240) Bauckham provides a bedazzling array of reasons and defenses for his position.
On account of the many chapters in seemingly unordered sequence, a review of Bauckham's argument would best be served by grouping his chapters according to their subject matter. Bauckham intends to demonstrate three overarching points: 1- Accounts of Jesus in the early church are "controlled" teachings which fall into the genre of "testimony"; 2- The Gospel of Mark encompasses testimony as told by an eyewitness, Peter; 3- The Gospel of John encompasses testimony as told by an eyewitness, the Beloved Disciple.
Point 1: Bauckham's tome is richly complex in its argumentation, and many of his chapters feed into multiple points.Read more ›