Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels

Article excerpt

Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. By Pheme Perkins. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007. xvi + 312 pp. $28.00 (cloth).

The audience for which this book is intended is serious lay readers, theological students, and even clergy who have not kept up with the field since their graduation from seminary. Clergy who use biblical criticism in their sermons without explaining why and how they do so prompted the author's sister-in-law to say: "It's as though the ministers have a secret they won't share with the rest of us" (p. 13). When Eerdmans asked Perkins to share the secret, she accepted their invitation.

Who better to write such a book? Pheme Perkins, a devout and active Roman Catholic lay person, has taught New Testament at Boston College since she completed her Harvard doctorate over thirty-five years ago, has written or assisted in writing over twenty books and countless journal articles, and is recognized as a distinguished scholar.

Perkins prepares her readers for her discussion of the individual gospels by introducing them to the genre of gospel and its relation to ancient biographies and to the tools needed to interpret these books, such as form and source criticism and the literary analysis of a gospel as a whole. Importantly, she calls attention to the value of text criticism (a much neglected discipline), paving the way for her use of it later, especially at the end of the book. The chapters on each of the synoptic gospels have a common format that "begins with the Gospels overall narrative and its literary features, discusses characters, the figure of Jesus, and the implied community, and concludes with the consideration of related apocryphal gospel material" (p. …

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