Thanks to the great folks at Eerdmans, I have received a review copy of Francis Watson’s latest book, Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective (amazon.com).
Thanks to a colleague (who happens to receive the review books for Bible Study Magazine) I was able to get a sneak peek at Gospel Writing, and I knew I wanted to read it. The reason the book jumped out at me is that Watson takes the four-gospel canon seriously, but he also interacts heavily with noncanonical material (e.g. P. Egerton 2, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Thomas) in his exploration of how gospel material was formed, matured, and disseminated. His interaction with the noncanonical material, given the recent release of my two-volume Greek Apocryphal Gospels collection, had my interest right away.
I hope to make it through the book soon (well, soon for me) and write more about it. Until then, here are some blurbs and the TOC. Oh, and you’ll want to read this post on Gospel Writing from Eerdmans’ blog as well.
That there are four canonical versions of the one gospel story is often seen as a problem for Christian faith: where gospels multiply, so to do apparent contradictions that may seem to undermine their truth claims. In Gospel Writing Francis Watson argues that differences and tensions between canonical gospels represent opportunities for theological reflection, not problems for apologetics.
Watson presents the formation of the fourfold gospel as the defining moment in the reception of early gospel literature — and also of Jesus himself as the subject matter of that literature. As the canonical division sets four gospel texts alongside one another, the canon also creates a new, complex, textual entity more than the sum of its parts. A canonical gospel can no longer be regarded as a definitive, self-sufficient account of its subject matter. It must play its part within an intricate fourfold polyphony, and its meaning and significance are thereby transformed.
In elaborating these claims, Watson proposes nothing less than a new paradigm for gospel studies — one that engages fully with the available noncanonical material so as to illuminate the historical and theological significance of the canonical.
Table of Contents
- Part One: The Eclipse of the Fourfold Gospel
- 1. Augustine’s Ambitious Legacy
- 2. Dismantling the Canon: Lessing/Reimarus
- Part Two: Reframing Gospel Origins
- 3. The Coincidences of Q
- 4. Luke the Interpreter
- 5. Thomas versus Q
- 6. Interpreting a Johannine Source (Jn, GEger)
- 7. Reinterpreting in Parallel (Jn, GTh, GPet)
- Part Three: The Canonical Construct
- 8. The East: Limiting Plurality
- 9. The West: Towards Consensus
- 10. Origen: Canonical Hermeneutics
- 11. Image, Symbol, Liturgy
- In lieu of a Conclusion: Seven Theses on Jesus and the Canonical Gospel