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Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective Paperback – May 26, 2013
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"This brilliant work is likely to be a touchstone in early Christian studies for years to come. Essential for academic and seminary libraries and an ornament to the scholar's study."
Journal of Theological Studies
"In this impressive, energetic new magnum opus, Francis Watson sets out to topple key conventional paradigms of gospel origins in favor of a far-reaching new construct. . . . This reviewer finds himself profoundly instructed and expects to assign Gospel Writing to his students for a long time to come."
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
"Gospel Writing is filled with engaging material, and it is a thought-provoking and well-researched book."
Reviews in Religion & Theology
"Wide-ranging, striking, powerful, and breathtaking are just some of the ways that Francis Watson's Gospel Writing has been described. To call this book a substantial contribution to the field is an understatement. . . . Watson's presentation is compelling and his argumentation thorough."
Theological Book Review
"A highly integrative account of gospel formation and reception that looks to embrace and understand the positive role played by apparent incongruence experienced when reading texts together."
Review of Biblical Literature
"An impressive book both in the range of topics it discusses and in the depth in which it discusses them."
-- University of Cambridge
"A wonderfully wide-ranging book, full of learning and insight. One of the most significant books on the gospels in the last hundred years, this work will undoubtedly shake up the current study of the gospels."
-- University of Durham
"Francis Watson offers here a striking and powerful argument for the importance of reading Scripture as a canon. The argument is constantly historical as well as theological, exploring the character of the early church's decision to accept a fourfold symphonic gospel. . . . All should celebrate the manner in which Watson sets a new agenda for those who ask why we continue to read the gospel in this form."
Dale C. Allison Jr.
-- Princeton Theological Seminary
"The scope of this major contribution is breathtaking. Watson expertly moves from Augustine to Lessing to Q to Thomas to the synoptic problem to the sources of John's Gospel to the Gospel of Peter to the emergence of the fourfold gospel canon to Origen to early Christian art and liturgy. The upshot is a slew of new observations and intriguing proposals that open up fresh lines of inquiry. Required reading for all students of the gospel tradition."
Bible Study Magazine
“A refreshing approach. . . . Watson explains how the Gospels should be treated as a necessarily interrelated whole. Believing each Gospel is worth studying independently, he details the reception history of each and compares them with the non-canonical gospels of Thomas and Peter, among others. He concludes that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John together comprise ‘a new text, more than the other than the sum of its parts.’”
Southeastern Theological Review
“Francis Watson has written an ambitious and impressive work that seeks to undermine the prevailing position on the construction of the gospels and to replace it with a new paradigm. . . . Watson displays an incredible depth and wide range of knowledge. . . . [He] boldly takes on several major scholarly paradigms and is a force to be reckoned with, even if his proposals do not ultimately win the day. . . . A fascinating read and one which deserves a careful consideration by all serious scholars of gospel literature.”
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"No book is inherently canonical: texts become canonical because their readers stipulate that they shall henceforth be so, and they stay that way only insofar as later readers uphold the earlier decision." Around this statement is built a premise of reading the Gospels not as a set of four, but as a line from existing sources, so that one may include known non-canonical writings as well as speculating on yet unknown sources. What Watson accomplishes is nothing less than expanding the canonical reading while at the same time preserving the Four-Fold tradition in ways even Augustine and Origen would have to admire.
The book is divided into three parts. Part One begins with Augustine and ends with the enlightened discovery of Q. Part Two examines various theories on the origins of the Gospels assuming a less-than-eyewitness account, focusing instead on the literary lineage. Finally, Part Three begins with Clement and marches us through time and space to Jerome whereby we see the preservation of the Four-Fold Gospel as something liturgical and ecumenical....
For brevity's sake, I have posted the rest this review on my blog and on Academia.edu. My review is something like 2500 words. You can find it at