JonathanPennington.com Baker Academic Amazon

What is the Gospel?

How are the Gospels like a running race?

Video by Cash In Productions

More video for Reading the Gospels Wisely coming soon...
Cash In Productions on YouTube.

Part 1
Clearing Ground, Digging Deep,
and Laying a Good Foundation

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Part 2
Building the House
through Wise Reading

Part 3
Living in the
Gospels House

1. What are the Gospels? Defining "Gospel"

Table of Contents, Forward, and Chapter One

This chapter surveys the meaning of "Gospel" in the Bible. It provides a provisional definition of the Gospel: Building on the Isaianic vision, the NT authors define the "Gospel" as Jesus' effecting of the long awaited return of God himself as King, in the power of the Spirit bringing his people back from exile and into the true promised land of a new creation, forgiving their sins, and fulfilling all the promises of God and the hopes of his people.

2. What are the Gospels? Understanding the "Gospel" Genre

This chapter explores what kind of genre the Gospels are, concluding that they are a special kind of Christological and eschatological biography. A comprehensive definition of the Gospels is offered, based on chapters 1 and 2: Our canonical Gospels are the theological, historical, and aretalogical (virtue-forming) biographical narratives that retell the story and proclaim the significance of Jesus Christ, who through the power of the Spirit is the Restorer of God's reign.

3. Why Do We Need The Gospels? (Or, Why St. Paul is Not Enough)

This chapter gives nine reasons why the Gospels are essential to our understanding of God and Scripture. These include an emphasis on the power of story.

4. The Joy and Angst of Having Four Gospels

This chapter explores the assorted problems that arise from having four canonical Gospels instead of just one. Various solutions and explanations are given for these potential problems. Finally, some of the positive joys of having a fourfold account are discussed.

5. Texts and History: The Testimony of the Fourfold Witness

Addendum to Chapter 5 on Augustine and History in the Gospels

This chapter delves into the large question of what history is and how narrative texts like the Gospels communicate historically. I provide a discussion of how history has been understood over time epistemologically, and offer the category of Testimony as the best way forward in thinking about the kind of historical witness the Gospels give. Along the way I interact with assorted other approaches to understanding the Gospels, including that of NT Wright.

6. Reading Holy Scripture Well: Three Avenues

This chapter is the first of two chapters dealing with broad hermeneutical issues of how to read Holy Scripture. This chapter argues that the meaning of a text is found through approaching it with a variety of interpretive tools, which can be classified as "behind the text," "in the text," and "in front of the text."

7. Reading Holy Scripture Well: Intent, Meaning, and Posture

This chapter is the second of two chapters dealing broadly with hermeneutical matters. In this chapter I address the specific questions of the role of authorial intent, what we mean by talking about "meaning," and most importantly, how our posture toward God plays a role in the interpretive process.

8. Summary of Part One: Foundations for Reading the Gospels Well

This chapter offers a brief survey of the previous seven chapters for the purpose exploring the implications of the preceding ideas for our reading of the Gospels. Several new concepts are introduced which will prove foundational for the overall argument of the book. Also, the issue of our goal in reading the Gospels is explored. This is summed up with the key ideas of Revelation and Identification.

9. Reading the Gospels as Stories,
Part One: The "Whatever Strikes Me" (WSM) Hermeneutic versus Narrative Analysis

In this chapter and the next I offer a method for reading and interpreting the narratives/stories of the Gospels. This chapter explores a plot analysis tool that guides us into discerning what are the most important emphases of any story.

10. Reading the Gospels as Stories,
Part Two: Circles of Contextual Meaning

This chapter builds upon the narrative analysis tool from the preceding chapter and expands it to include interpretive help from the ever-widening circles of context in which a story is found – the immediate literary context, the whole-Gospel context, and the context of the whole canon.

11. Summing It All Up: Applying and Teaching the Gospels

Similar to Chapter 8, this chapter sums up the preceding discussion and explores the implications of all that has been said for how to apply, teach, and preach the Gospel stories.

12. The Gospels and the Archway of the Canon

This chapter moves beyond the main argument of the book and suggests that the fourfold Gospel book should play a central and organizing role in our reading of the whole Bible. The image used is that of a keystone in an archway. Based on historical and canonical-theological arguments I suggest that the fourfold Gospel book plays the crucial role of the keystone that holds together the witness of the OT on one side and the rest of the NT writings on the other.

Many books on the Gospels slog through source criticism, form criticism, and redaction criticism--important topics to be sure. How refreshing it is, however, to find a book with a new approach, one that reads the Gospels as literature and sees their importance theologically. This book is like a cool drink of water in what is too often the desert of Gospel studies. While I don't agree with everything Pennington says, his arguments must be reckoned with, and they further the conversation in productive and stimulating ways. I believe this is the best introductory book on the Gospels. Both students and professors will find it to be invaluable.

Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

This is a book that could transform many people's reading of the Gospels. Jonathan Pennington has a wide knowledge of the specialist literature, and he skillfully distills what matters most for the task of reading the Gospels wisely. He is especially concerned that we read the Gospels in ways that are appropriate to the sort of texts they are. What comes across is a powerful sense that the Gospels are not only historical but also life-changing.

Richard Bauckham, University of St. Andrews; Ridley Hall, Cambridge

Reading the Gospels can be tricky, but it is important to read them with a full appreciation of their theology. Jonathan Pennington's study helps you get there--and get there well, as well as wisely.

Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

Few academic enterprises of recent generations have been as chaotic and contradictory as the study of Jesus and the Gospels. Bultmann, Bornkamm, Borg, Burridge, Blomberg, Bauckham--and those are just some Bs--whom to believe? This learned yet lively volume attempts to transcend past miscues and cash in on lasting insights going back to patristic times. Pennington shows how the fourfold canonical Gospel ought to be read: as the proper entrée to becoming Jesus's disciple for the sake of loving God by the work of the Spirit. Few works explain more.

Robert W. Yarbrough, professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri

Follow Jonathan on Twitter