- Perfect Paperback: 504 pages
- Publisher: Eerdmans; 1 edition (September 22, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802863906
- ISBN-13: 978-0802863904
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony 1st Edition
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Michael Ramsey Prize, Winner (2009)
"Bauckham's proposal is both path-breaking and a tour de force."
"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."
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.
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Top customer reviews
As John said, "These are written that you may believe..." This book will add significantly to that outcome.
Bauckham claims that oral traditions concerning the life and teaching of Jesus were attributed to named eyewitnesses while they were still alive in geographically proximal locations. He refers to sources such as Luke, Papias, and Quadratus to support the argument. He notes that Jewish name usage in the New Testament is inexplicable from the perspective of extra-Palestinian-Jewish invention and that the well-recorded lists of disciples conjoined with the practice of book-ending a narrative with the name of the primary eyewitness guarantor of the tradition (what Bauckham refers to as an “inclusio”) lends significant credence to the gospels as being comprised of and relying on eyewitness testimony. Additionally, Bauckham covers the use of “plural-to-singular” narrative devices to support a Petrine perspective in some of the gospels, discusses how the collective memory of the early church was rooted in the recollective memories of Peter, and describes how the model of authoritative teachers passing on lessons to a community was normative among ancient sources, as evidenced by Papias, Irenaeus, and even Josephus.
I found Bauckham's chapter on the memory of eyewitness testimony to be extremely interesting. It clarified a lot about how reliable memory can be given certain contexts, such as an event being unique or unusual, unexpected, particularly salient to the eyewitness, and so on. It clarified what kinds of details are typically better remembered than others. Likewise, the account of a man accurately recalling significant details of an event that he experienced when he was a child seventy two years after the fact was astonishing. Despite all of its problems, memory can be incredibly reliable in certain circumstances.
The book is thorough, extremely comprehensive, and intellectually challenging. Bauckham handles the evidence fairly and even-handedly, even when I wished he hadn't. There are two views specifically on which I differed from the author before I picked up the book and that now, having finished the book, I'm beginning to question – namely, on matters concerning the authorship of the gospel of John and the identity of Levi in the gospels. Bauckham's work is convincing, but it takes a bit of effort to work through. It is dry at times, and because it is as thorough as it is, it can seem to be repetitive in places. If you're looking for an easy, beginner's approach to biblical scholarship, you'll probably want to start somewhere else. But if you want a balanced and in-depth treatment of the gospels, or if you're curious about what evidence there is in support of the gospels being eyewitness testimony, pick this thing up. It's a tremendous resource.
Yet talk about "oral tradition" seems ubiquitous in NT studies, on all sides of the argument. The assumption that the gospels were NOT based on eyewitness accounts, is often made explicit by skeptics.
Aside from the problem of timing, an even graver problem with this sort of talk is the nature of the Gospels themselves. Put simply, however one redacts and Qs and triple Qs and invents editorial communities and reads the minds of people one has never met or even heard of, the fact is these documents LOOK uncannily like genuine records of real people experiencing actual, and profoundly significant, events. That is the case I tried to make. (I also argued that there seem to be no genuine parallels in the ancient world to the Gospels.)
Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses takes several independent and more rigorous paths to a similar conclusion.
As other reviewers have noted, this book is not easy reading. It is dense, tightly argued, sometimes a bit repetitive. Not all of Bauckham's arguments seem equally persuasive to me: I think there is a limit to how much we can nurse from Papias, for instance. Sometimes Bauckham succumbs to the urge to build what look like castles in the air. Nor does this work have the literary flair of, say, NT Wright's Jesus and the People of God series, or John Crossan's The Historical Jesus.
Nevertheless, I think Bauckham proves his case. And by doing so -- in his methodical, sometimes repetitive manner, with a thorough knowledge of hundreds of scholarly texts and primary sources -- I think we can pronounce the "Age of Form Criticism" officially over.
Not, mind you, that Bauckham himself sees no value at all in Form Critical insights. But the Empire need no longer exercise power over us.
Bauckham achieves this less by any one particular argument, than by recasting the evidence into a larger pattern with witnesses like Peter and John (whichever John, I don't think Bauckham really pins this down) at its core. I was especially intrigued by his argument that those named in the gospels are probably often sources that the authors relied upon, and his account of how the gospels faithfully preserve name frequencies from 1st Century Palestine. (Though more detailed evidence from other places besides Egypt to compare with, would have been helpful.) But it is the explanatory power of his argument, both in general strokes, and in minute details, that makes it successful.
Don't expect an easy read. But do expect an enlightening one, which may change how you read the Gospels for at least the next 40 years.