In the last six months or so, I completed the Bible in 90 Days challenge and also went through a study of the entire New Testament with my church. Reading books in the context of the whole has been a wonderful experience for me, and of course the four Gospels are a major piece of that reading.
Since I’d just finished going through them, I was very interested when Crossway sent me a review copy of Discovering Jesus: Why Four Gospels to Portray One Person?, a short book exploring and comparing the Gospels, showing how they portray Jesus in four distinctive but complementary ways.
The Gospels are our primary source of information about the life of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, most Christians don’t have a clear understanding of them. This is due in part to the considerable overlap in content, which causes them to tend to blur together in our minds. Another factor is the usual method of reading them in a piecemeal fashion, taking passages from here and there and making little attempt to see them in the context of the whole. Discovering Jesus was developed in response to this trend. The material was originally taught by the author as a course on the Gospels and was reworked into book form.
How do the Gospels differ from each other? What is distinctive about each one? How is each one organized? Chronologically? Topically? What is the key theme or focus of each one? Discovering Jesus addresses these and many other questions.
Don’t be fooled by the relatively short length of the book. It’s chockful of clearly laid out, easy to understand information. It opens with a brief overview of all four gospels, then, beginning with Mark, which is believed to be the earliest Gospel, spends two chapters on each one, addressing the structure, key themes, and sources of each. There are very helpful charts and diagrams and thoughtful discussion questions included in each chapter. The two concluding chapters discuss the composition of the Gospels…how they came to be written down in their final form…and final observations about their significance in giving us an appreciation and understanding of Jesus’ uniqueness. There’s a thorough list of resources for further reading included at the end.
I’d learned some of the basic information here in the past. For example, I was familiar with the key themes and different audiences of each of the Gospels: Matthew is written to a Jewish audience and portrays Jesus as the Messiah, Luke is written primarily to Gentiles and emphasizes Jesus’ role as the Savior of the world, etc. Discovering Jesus covers all this plus much more. I really benefited from how clearly the book lays out the literary structure and distinctiveness of each book, showing exactly how they harmonize and where they differ.
It all sounds so technical with my talk of themes, organization, and charts, but that’s really not the sense I had while reading. The book truly gave me a new appreciation for the uniqueness, order, and purpose of each Gospel and how beautifully they complement each other. I think it would make an excellent foundation for group or personal study. I plan to go back through it slowly while reading through the Gospels again, even though I gained much just by reading straight through.
The author’s hope is that, “By appreciating the distinctive contribution that each Gospel makes to our understanding of Jesus, we, too, can begin to derive a much richer picture of who he is.” I think Discovering Jesus is an excellent resource in that goal!
Thank you to Crossway for providing a review copy of Discovering Jesus to me. All opinions expressed are my own.