Volume 43 - Issue 2

Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels

by Darrell L. Bock with Benjamin I. Simpson

Jesus according to Scripture is a revised and expanded version of a text that Darrell Bock originally published in 2002. Like the first edition, the book is designed “for students taking classes on the Gospels or on the life of Christ, and for pastors who wish to study the life and teaching of Jesus” (preface to the first edition, p. xxvi). The book treats the historical questions of dating and authorship, but focusses on explaining the Gospels’ presentation of Jesus by means of a passage-by-passage commentary. The new edition includes three new chapters, which extend the scope of the book by providing an excellent discussion of “how we got the Gospels.” The major commentary section has also been significantly expanded and updated.

Part 1 (pp. 1–108) treats “The Four Gospels: Distinctive Voices and How We Got Them.” This part retains and updates Bock’s original chapter giving an overview of each of the four Gospels, including questions of structure, themes, authorship, setting, and date (ch. 4). It has, however, been significantly enhanced by three new introductory chapters on “Witnessing the Gospel,” “Remembering the Gospel,” and “Retelling the Gospel.” These three chapters on testimony, memory, and orality, were substantially the contribution of Benjamin I. Simpson, Bock’s colleague at Dallas Theological Seminary. They bring the volume up to date with the most recent scholarship on the origins of the Gospels, and provide an excellent, concise, and insightful discussion of the relationship between the written Gospels and eyewitness testimony to Jesus (ch. 1), early Christian memories of Jesus (ch. 2), and oral tradition about Jesus (ch. 3). These chapters provide the most recent and reliable introduction to these three questions currently available and are, even on their own, well worth the price of the book.

Part 2 (pp. 109–516) and Part 3 (pp. 517–688) present, respectively, “Jesus according to the Synoptists” and “Jesus according to John.” This major section of the book retains the incisive passage-by-passage commentary which was the major contribution of its first edition. The commentary has, however, been significantly updated and now interacts with the major commentaries published on the Gospels since 2002. It has also been significantly expanded, and now includes an extra 100 pages of commentary beyond that provided in the first edition. The decision to treat the Synoptic Gospels in parallel is a unique contribution of this volume. The authors certainly respect the distinctive voice of each of the three Synoptic Gospels, but provide a real service by showing how the three Synoptists provide mutually complementary portraits of Jesus. In the preface they explain that “By working with a synopsis and juxtaposing one Gospel with another, we hoped to highlight the similarities and differences in a way that handling each Gospel separately could not achieve” (pp. xv–xvi.). The result is a detailed demonstration of the symphonic harmony that we have in the Synoptic Gospels. The decision to treat the Gospel of John separately represents a wise recognition of the Fourth Gospel’s distinctive portrait of Jesus. Of course, not every reader will agree with every exegetical decision, but the volume provides a consistently evangelical commentary on all four Gospels and, as such, is a resource unparalleled in recent evangelical Gospel scholarship.

The volume also provides a number of useful aids that enhance its utility as a reference work, including a select bibliography and indices of subjects, modern authors, and references to Scripture and other ancient sources. Particularly helpful is a detailed chart listing “Gospel References by Unit” (pp. vii–xiv), which allows readers to easily locate the discussion of any given Gospel passage. One loss in the second edition is the synthetic “Theological Portrait of Jesus,” which formed the final part of the first edition. This is understandable, given the constraints of space, and the fact that it has now become its own book (D. L. Bock with B. I. Simpson, Jesus the God-Man: The Unity and Diversity of the Gospel Portrayals [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016]). All in all, the second edition of Jesus according to Scripture provides an excellent, up to date, and solidly evangelical introduction to the Gospels and their testimony to Jesus.

Murray Smith

Murray Smith
Christ College
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Other Articles in this Issue

One of the features of the Theological Interpretation of Scripture movement is the use of the rule of faith in biblical interpretation...

Evangelicals have criticized Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option and the idea of strategic withdrawal, with some citing Abraham Kuyper as a model of how Christians should engage the world today...

In The God Who Saves (2016), David Congdon seeks an elusive synthesis of Karl Barth’s dogmatics and Rudolf Bultmann’s hermeneutics: he integrates Bultmann’s insistence on the concrete historicity of individual human experience with Barth’s stress on the universal salvific significance of Christ...

Everyone agrees shame is a pervasive problem; yet, in book and articles, we find writers often talk past one another...

What are the purposes of the songs of the Apocalypse? What effect are they intended to produce? After a brief discussion of the question of sources, the function played by Revelation’s hymns is explored with particular attention being paid to their connection to the cosmic conflict theme, the way they model celebration in the face of tribulation, the comfort they offer believers and the warning they present to unbelievers...