Book Notice: The Jesus of the Gospels

Andreas J. Köstenberger. The Jesus of the Gospels: An Introduction. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2020. 472 pages. $34.99.

Dr. Andreas J. Köstenberger is currently Research Professor of New Testament and Biblical theology and Director of the Center for Biblical Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written extensively on topics ranging from Johannine discourse to hermeneutics and the Greek language. In The Jesus of the Gospels, Köstenberger combines his scholarly acumen with fatherly counsel. This is not his first book written for a general, non-scholarly audience but may be one of his first written so that his children can know Jesus in the same way he does.

The book is arranged according to the canonical ordering of the Gospels, beginning with Matthew and concluding with John. Bookending the analysis of the Gospels is an introduction and various back matter (epilogue, suggested resources, 30-day Gospels reading plan, and indices). In the introduction, Köstenberger situates his book within the field of Jesus research. The central question of the book is a quotation from Matt 16:15: “Who do they say that I am?” In exploring and answering this question, Köstenberger states five initial theses. First, God chose to provide us with four canonical Gospels. Second, the Gospels provide historical, literary, and theologically significant accounts of the life of Jesus. These accounts are complementary and meant to be read together. Third, one should read the Gospels equally without preference for one over the other. Fourth, the Gospels should be read in their canonical order. Fifth, we should affirm the Gospels as “one in unity according to four witnesses” (25). This framework attests to an essential unity concerning the key events in the life of Christ—crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. With these theses in mind, each chapter begins with a succinct sketch of the Gospel writer, followed by a discussion of how he crafts his story concerning Jesus. Next, the chapter explores the distinctive elements of the particular Gospel and its theological emphases. Finally, the chapters work from a broad outline to give an overview of the entire Gospel. For example, in the case of Matthew, Köstenberger divides the book into three major sections: Matt 1:1–4:16, 4:17–18:35, and 19:1–28:20.

Overall, the volume is thorough and replete with helpful references for further study. Combining both scholarly and pastoral elements, Köstenberger has provided an essential resource for the desk and the pew. In the preface, he states his intention to write a succinct guide to the Gospels for his college-aged children, but at over 400 pages, this book on the Gospels is more than a casual read. Yet the excitement of encountering Jesus in the pages of Scripture and the Gospel narratives provides ample warrant for such thoroughness. My hope is the same as the author’s: that his children may grow in their faith upon reading the book and that his book will impact my own children and future students as well to encounter Jesus the Messiah, the son of the living God (Matt 16:16).

CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. The present book notice was written by Charles Nathan Ridlehoover, Ph.D. (University of Bristol), a secondary teacher at North Raleigh Christian Academy, Raleigh, NC, who also teaches New Testament courses for Columbia International Seminary.


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