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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but it takes serious effort to read.
The Four Witnesses is a fascinating book which anchors the writings of Mark, Matthew, Luke, John and Paul deeply into the culture and events -- and even the language structure -- of each of their current times. Griffith-Jones points out elements in the Old Testament and other revered teachings which influenced their thought processes. "Who do you say I am?"...
Published on September 4, 2000

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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good content; difficult to read
Griffith-Jones has tackled very interesting subject matter but this book is not easily read. His complex sentences, with their many commas and phrases, and the continual need to translate his unconventional terminology mar the free flow of thought. It is a study for students rather than a book read for enjoyment and relaxation. He paints a background for each of the...
Published on June 12, 2000 by Mary Lou Wood


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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but it takes serious effort to read., September 4, 2000
By A Customer
The Four Witnesses is a fascinating book which anchors the writings of Mark, Matthew, Luke, John and Paul deeply into the culture and events -- and even the language structure -- of each of their current times. Griffith-Jones points out elements in the Old Testament and other revered teachings which influenced their thought processes. "Who do you say I am?" becomes ever more a matter of conjecture as each of these writers tries to make Jesus out to be completely Godly, a man who became Godly, or half-man, half-God like the current myths of Hercules, a hero of the downtrodden, or a man who appeals to the peacekeeping elite. It's a shame that Griffith-Jones is so difficult to read. A)He uses British vernacular, B) his work is so scholarly as to leave some of us laymen in the dust and C)he gives everything his own new names (ex.: Old Testament becomes Old Order). However, this book is so graphic in detailing the struggle to simply survive in these times that you become completely immersed in History. You're right in the thick of it as traditional Judaism is wrenched in half by a series of circumstances to become the Jews and Christians separately and irrevocably. This book was perfect preparation for my first year of seminary studies.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Development of Early Christianity, June 4, 2001
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This review is from: The Four Witnesses: The Rebel, the Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic (Paperback)
I found this book on a shelf. It looked intriguing, and I read it. (In fact, the author says his book was written for for, among others, such a reader.) To be more specific, I am interested in religion and in the relationship between early Christianity and Judaism. I am Jewish and have heard something of what Judaism has to say about the relationship between the two religions. I haven't read much in depth about it and, even more unfortunately, haven't really listened to what Christian scholars might have to say on the subject.
Griffith-Jones's book did have something of what I wanted. The book considers each of the New Testament Gospels, together with other books of the New Testament, chiefly Acts and Revelation. Interspersed with each discussion is a historical section which considers Roman, Jewish and Christian sources discussing the period and place which Griffith Jones associates with each Gospel.
There is a great deal in the book about the interplay between early Christianity and the synagogue. Griffifth-Jones does a good job, I think, in describing the Second Temple and its practices, the calamity of its destruction by the Romans 30 years or so after the life of Jesus, and the difficulties faced by the early Christians. There is also good discussion of the dynamics between the church and synagogue, with some peoplein the synagogue opting to follow Jesus, others being ambivalent and uncertain, and others, and the synagogue as a whole, declining to do so. This is interesting and valuable and I would like to know more. The appeal of Christianity is, understandably enough, explained by the author. This is what I wanted to hear, but I also would like to hear the Jewish side.
There is also a good discussion of the decision the early Christians had to make about whether there message was primarily directed to Judaism or whether the message was world-encompassing with a mission and message for non-Jews as well. This is important and insightful, as far as both religions are concerned and Griffith-Jones discusses it well.
Although it is not the focus of the book, there is much here that Christians and Jews can share and discuss in an attempt to better understand each other. This is valuable and I learned something from hearing it from an informed and obviously deeply Christian voice.
The textual interpretations of the Gospels are interesting in themselves, if something too long and not well organized. As one would expect, they are more evangelical and religious in tone than the historical discussion. In some instances, I am not sure how the historical information the author presents informs or illuminates his reading of his Gospel. He doesn't always explain the connection well. Bythe time the author gets to the Gospel of John, the connection, at least for me, was almost entirely lost.
I found the discussions of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke more illuminating, as to their purpose and audience, that the author's discussions of Mark and John.
The book is long and challenging to read. Although written for laypersons, it is difficult. There is a lot of repitition. This was probably done to allow the reader to keep track of what is being said, but too often it gets in the way. Stylistically the book is uneven.
This book will require effort to read. It did teach me something of what I wanted to know and helped me understand and appreciate the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. This is a subject that those in both traditions could well take to their hearts.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good content; difficult to read, June 12, 2000
By 
Mary Lou Wood (Bradenton, Florida) - See all my reviews
Griffith-Jones has tackled very interesting subject matter but this book is not easily read. His complex sentences, with their many commas and phrases, and the continual need to translate his unconventional terminology mar the free flow of thought. It is a study for students rather than a book read for enjoyment and relaxation. He paints a background for each of the gospel writers and shows how their story of Jesus developed within that environment, making their perspectives dramatically different. The result is a well-rounded picture for those who will allow their faith to expand. I would have given this book five stars if I had been able to assimilate everything Mr. Griffith-Jones had to offer in relaxed manner. Maybe a second reading will help.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Four Witnesses, June 17, 2000
By 
There are plenty of nuggets that justify the effort it takes to stay with this book, such as glimpses of how Paul might have influenced the shape of the gospels. Overall, Mr. Griffith-Jones' opaque style seriously clouds what could have been a more illuminating study. I wonder if he meant to be so inaccessible. The author has plenty of insight to share, but spends much of the reader's patience on elaborate and contorted constructs which sometimes turn into circular thinking, and often lead to a fairly mundane point. He also wanders off for pages into tangential texts without making it clear they add all that much (a few do). The most valuable thing I got from the book, and it is significant, is a fresh sense of how audacious the Gospel messages were and are. This alone made a sometimes frustrating read worthwhile.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jesus emerges from Gospels, November 29, 2000
By 
Warren Harry (Charleston, WV United States) - See all my reviews
Although the author directs the book toward the lay person most lay persons will find it difficult to read. However, this should not deter them for there is material worth the struggle. The question again emerges "Who do you say that I am?" Griffin-Jones presents a portrait of an answer housed in the writings of one called the Rebel, another a Rabbi, another a Chronicler and finally the Mystic. The author takes us into the cultural setting of each gospel where we seek the presence of the one who comes to us in the same question but in differing explanations. It is a rich and rewarding book, one that bears reading more than once.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Hard Case, June 8, 2001
By 
Capnemo (Pasadena, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Four Witnesses: The Rebel, the Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic (Paperback)
Overwritten, florid and disjointed. This book would have been more effective had the author not told us, continually, what he was going to tell us (do you remember the Monty Python sketch "Jacob was a hairy man but his brother Esau was smooth"?). What ever happend to pithy sentences, compact thought, active case, present tense? A good editor would have helped immensely. Compared to J.D. Crossan or Thomas Cahill, this book, sadly, falls short.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff to say, bad way to say it, February 7, 2001
By A Customer
I read the reviews while trying to decide whether to buy this book, and I couldn't decide whether all the comments about it being hard to read meant it was written in an obtuse way or just that the sentences were too long for present-day taste. Having bought it, and as a professional editor, I can say that Griffiths-Jones could really have used the services of a pro. One of two things happened: Either Griffiths-Jones refused to let an editor look at the manuscript (or rejected any suggestions his editor had), or his publisher hoodwinked him and gave him a second-rate hack. Not only did I see some typos--which there is no excuse for, especially in a book aimed at a thoughtful audience--but the author seems incapable of staying in the correct verb tense for even one sentence. It is extremely distracting! I found myself mentally editing as I read, putting everything in the correct tense so as to be able to make some sense of it. This is very unfortunate, because the points the author makes are interesting and thought-provoking. What a shame to wipe that out due to the poor/lack of editing. Author, next time avail yourself of an editor!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Four Views of Truth, Amplified, February 17, 2004
By 
JAD (The Sunshine State) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Four Witnesses: The Rebel, the Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic (Paperback)
Here is a book to sink your theological teeth into. Robin Griffith-Jones takes the reader on a journey of discovery as he compares and contrasts the four chief sources of our understanding of Jesus Christ.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all answer Jesus' question, "Who do you say I am?" And they present us with Jesus in such a way that it demands a response from us. Even so, each of the Gospel writers answers with a distinct voice. We are so used to hearing bits and pieces of all the Gospels; we often merge their messages.
Griffith-Jones invites us, instead, to see Jesus in the distinct ways he is presented in each.
The subtitle of the book tells us we will look at Jesus as: the Rebel, the Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic. If these are attributes of Jesus you have not yet considered, you will want to read more about each.
The author is a former chaplain and professor of New Testament at Lincoln College, Oxford, now serves as Master of the Temple Church in London, one of the most influential positions in the Church of England. He gives us the state of the world and the state of the fledgling Christian community, so we may better understand the concerns each Gospel writer addresses in their individual portraits of Christ.
Just as artists have cast light on particular aspects of Jesus ministry and message, so too, says Griffith-Jones, those inspired witnesses. The Rebel who turned the world upside down, the Rabbi who taught in the tradition of Judaism yet with an authority unlike any other, the Chronicler who told the wonders of God's kingdom, and the Mystic who helped us the eternal realities behind everyday living.
If you want to delve into these aspects of our Lord, you will find Griffith-Jones the perfect guide. The book is not a quick read; and you will want to keep your New Testament open as you study the contributions of the Gospel writers.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Interesting, October 11, 2004
Even though I rarely read religious books, I picked this book up on a recent trip to the US. I was very pleasantly surprised: I thought the contents extremely interesting. We all know that each story of the gospel was written in a different context, but I have never understood just how much this affects our image of Jesus and his life and death. I found this book simply gripping. The author spends much time bringing back the atmosphere of these early Christian communities when the gospels were written, and he does it in a very colourful style. This may be unconventional, but it is certainly effective. This is a world that is so easily lost otherwise, and it prevents a challenging book from simply being dry and monotonous. This is a book that I think I will want to read again. Having read it from start to finish, I think that over the coming months I will want to dip into different chapters: because this is a book that has changed my understanding of the gospel as such, but each chapter also has so much to say about individual parables and stories.

In short: I found this a great book to deepen my understanding of Christ, and one that has encouraged me to go back and re-read the gospels from a fresh perspective.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Can I get a Witness??, May 6, 2003
This review is from: The Four Witnesses: The Rebel, the Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic (Paperback)
I was initially excited about reading the Four Witnesses. I saw it on Amazon.com and thought that it would be great. OK, I'll admit, I really just bought it for the cover. What a mistake. You really shouldn't judge a book by its cover. I honestly believed that this would be a fresh study of the gospels, or at least something that didn't fit the mold of much of the other liberal and ultra conservative ho-hum books I've read. Unfortunately, it's the same textual critical method we've seen a thousand times dressed up like something new and exciting. That was a let down. My second disappointment is that he very rarely looked at what the individual gospels have to say about Jesus apart from the other three (because if you rely on textual criticism, you can't come up with anything else because Mark used "Q" (whatever that is, because no one really knows), Matthew and Luke used Mark and Q, Luke probably used Matthew, and John is just off in his own little world, all according to the "party line"). What made this even more disappointing is that Jones has the most obtuse writing style (if you can call it style) that I've ever had the displeasure of coming across. I agree with a previous reviewer that he is constantly telling us what he's going to tell us (you're still getting introductory material well into pages in the 50's, and its only a 300 page book), but I would add that he never really tells us that which he says he's going to tell us, or at least, he never proves what he's trying to tell us. Additionally, he uses some really strange names for the books of the Bible in an effort to free it from the shackles of tradition, or some garbage to that effect. Some of these names seem to be of his own invention, and they're just really silly (Beginnings, Escape, Ritual Laws, Census, and Second Law for the first five). Of course, this is a totally pointless exercise because he puts the traditional name right next to it so that we wind up with (Escape [Exodus] 12:1). My question is if you're just going to repeat the "real" name of the book right after your "updated" name, why have it all, particularly when you spend so long trying to justify making the switch in the first place? Additionally, he uses only his own translations of texts. I don't like it when people use their own translations of texts. It's much easier to allow personal bias or theological agendas to creep in. I really don't like it when the average pastor/priest, armed with only a dictionary and a lexicon, tries to do it. Leave that work to the professionals, or at least those with qualifications. That I know of, Jones has no qualifications as a translator. In fact, he doesn't list any credentials at all, save that he is now in one of the most important offices of the Anglican Church (Whoptydo) and wrote this book in John Whesley's Study (what does that have to do with anything other than a neat aside...and besides Whesley was a great church leader, not a scholar). Lastly, and this is my personal pet peeve, he cites no one. No scholars, no church fathers, no theologians, not his aunt, no body. It's funny. I bought this and Ann Wroe's Pontious Pilate at the same time and I was equally disenchanted with them. I must have been having a bad week that week. In any case, let me just advise you to not go with this book. It really isn't worth it, except for the really cool cover art, but even that isn't so cool once you look at it up close.
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The Four Witnesses: The Rebel, the Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic
The Four Witnesses: The Rebel, the Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic by Robin Griffith-Jones (Paperback - April 3, 2001)
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