Book Notice: Handbook on the Gospels

Benjamin L. Gladd. Handbook on the Gospels. Handbooks on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2021. 446 pages. $30.49 (Hardback).    

When I visited Israel, our group was accompanied by a fantastic tour guide who showed us around. He provided a wealth of background information, communicated the importance of monuments and locations, and enriched our experience. Of course we could have gotten around the country without him, but it would not have been nearly as enriching. Similarly, reading through the four Gospels with Benjamin Gladd, Associate Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, as your tour guide enriches the experience.

The Handbook on the Gospels is one of three volumes in the Handbooks on the New Testament series published by Baker Academic.[1] The series aims to occupy the space between a detailed word-by-word commentary and a broad introductory survey. By not getting bogged down with technical exegetical details, nor being too brief to be substantive, these volumes strike a nice balance for intermediate readers wanting to get a firmer grasp of the New Testament.

Gladd wastes little time getting to the actual text. A brief preface begins the book where he lays out expectations of what the book is and what it is not. He begins each Gospel with a couple of pages dedicated to authorship, date, purpose, and outline. His views on authorship are traditional, as are his views on dating (Matthew mid- to late 60s; Mark late 50s to early 60s; Luke mid- to late 60s; John 80s). He then summarily walks through each Gospel. At the end, he provides extended bibliographies for further reading.

The strengths of this book are manifold. First, it is theologically sensitive. Gladd reads each Gospel with biblical-theological awareness. This approach not only enhances your understanding of the Gospels, but also helps you see how the Gospels fulfill and affect the entire canon. Second, it is evangelical. Gladd does not wield his sword on critical debates. He writes for the benefit of the church, and as such is a trustworthy companion for those wanting to grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus. Third, it is brief. A handbook on the four Gospels could easily be the size of the entire three-volume series. However, Gladd does a fine job highlighting what is important and not needlessly repeating himself with shared Synoptic material (though at times one wonders how he determines what to expand on or skip over).

A potential weakness is not so much due to Gladd as it is the genre and limitations of the series. Because the series aims to be broadly evangelical, issues regarding covenant, baptism, or ecclesiology are intentionally sidestepped. While some might be fine with that, others might find the lack of specificity not as helpful. These minor quibbles notwithstanding, next time you find yourself walking along the shore of Capernaum, mending nets with the sons of Zebedee, or beholding the empty tomb, pick up this handbook and let Gladd be your guide to the greatest story ever told.

[1] The other volumes include Tom Schreiner, Handbook on Acts and Paul’s Letters; Andreas Köstenberger, Handbook on Hebrews through Revelation.

Quinn R. Mosier is the Content Manager for the Center for Biblical Studies and Administration Assistant of the Residency at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


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