I received in the mail today a copy of David Alan Black’s book: Why Four Gospels? The historical Origins of the Gospels. I would like to thank both David Black and Energion Publications for giving me the opportunity to review this work; with no obligation for a positive review.
Why Four Gospels
Author: Black, David Alan
Note: The new edition of Dr. Black’s book traces the history, origin, and development of the four NT Gospels.
The main text of the book is only 78 pages, followed by a 21 page Bibliography and a 7 pages index section. Being a second edition; the author includes both the preface to the first edition as well as another preface for his 2nd edition.
The initial intention of the first edition was to provide a clear insight and summary of the authors beliefs in an accessible way to both the student, pastor and lay person and therefore as a scholarly work it could appear to be elementary. While the opinions in it are those of the authors; he makes it clearly known that the basis for his work stems from that of Dr Bernard Orchard and was given total access to his research for this publication.
In the 2nd preface to this current edition, the author critiques the current hermeneutical culture in its failure to engage with the church fathers in regards to the authenticity and historical being of the Scriptures. While maintaining his evangelical integrity; Black decries the current protestant / evangelical culture in ignoring the early church writers as being too catholic. And the simplistic outworking of Sola Scriptura in that we don’t need the wisdom of those who have gone before us. This 2nd edition has been reworked and updated to reflect a more scholarly volume; while retaining it’s accessibility to the lay reader and maintaining its original theme of a Mathew priority to the Gospels.
The book is a soft cover book with a semi glossy cover and is 23 cm * 13 and 8mm thick. Don’t ask what that is in imperial inches. The readability of the text is enhanced with its largish size font and line spacing. It’s simplistic in its chapter formatting, in that there are only 3 chapters; each containing 5 subsections with a conclusion to each. This combined with an excellent Bibliography and index, makes it easy to reference and find your way around the book. This said; the pages are bright white; which has an almost glossy look and feel to them; this causes some (slight)reading difficulty due to its light reflective nature and I would prefer to see its pages have a matt finish. Overall though the quality and readability of the book is to be commended.
There are only 3 chapters, each containing 5 sub headings; including a conclusion at the end. The 3 chapters are followed by a postscript:
- The Development of the Gospels
- The origins of the Gospels
- The making of the Gospels.
From the start the reader is drawn into the discussion as to why a Matthean priority over rides the higher critical conclusions of a Markean priority and the questions surrounding the Q source. The author makes a logical case within each chapter which overall leads to a fairly straightforward conclusion which supports his theme.
There are many strengths to this book.
- The accessibility for the general layperson to gain a deeper understanding of the viable alternatives to the academic Q dilemma.
- Evangelical permission to seek out the church fathers wisdom…
- Though its not the authors main intention; it gives a broad empowerment to understanding the place of the narrative text within the formulation of doctrine once again.
- An understanding of the historical importance as to how to understand scripture in light of its setting.
This book raises a number of questions; which I believe reduce the overall validity of his argument.
- How the Apostles are spoken about as lecturer’s reading from the scrolls. I have some difficulties with this position as Luke clearly points out in Acts that Peter and John were recognised as uneducated men. Certainly their fishing background leads to a strong indication and likely hood of them still being illiterate in the years following.
- Paul’s comment in Gal 5:12 about wishing the circumcisers would slip and cut all the tackle off… makes it unlikely he was reluctant to stand against the circumcisers.
- The thought that Paul commissioned Luke to write his gospel. It seems that in the opening statement that Luke clearly makes the point that many had previously undertaken to write up the Gospel story before him and that he was doing it for his nephew and not Paul…
It was refreshing to read this book. Through my own personal studies I had come to the conclusion of a Matthean priority and that the Gospels were written from an oral foundation stemming from the fact the Apostles had often shared their testimony. This book has strengthened my position in this regard and that it is a valuable contribution to understanding and believing the historical accuracy of the Scriptures as they stand. I feel that the strengths of this book outweigh any apparent weakness’s and offers a very logical and concise understanding which undermines any serious ongoing discussion which promotes the Q theory. On this basis I whole heartedly commend this book to you.