By Bob Mink
Since Jesus was the greatest person who ever lived, and the Gospels are four of the most important pieces of literature ever written, it is not surprising that so many books have been written about them. And these books were written with a variety of purposes. The Bible student should consider these purposes when choosing a book for Gospels study.
For a basic and quality introduction and overview of the life of Jesus presented in the Gospels, I recommend Paul Johnson’s Jesus: A Biography from a Believer (Penguin Books, 2010). In his introduction, Johnson describes the book as a “sketch” and “broad of brush,” but it is neither shallow nor simplistic. This overview would be helpful and enjoyable for anyone interested in Jesus’ life, including those unfamiliar with him, new believers, and longtime Christians.
A book I recommend that deals with attacks on the Gospels is Mark Roberts’s Can We Trust the Gospels? Investigating the Reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (Crossway Books, 2007). Roberts answers critical questions about the Gospels. This book will help “people who have questions and doubts about the Gospels” as well as believers who are talking with those who have such concerns. It will also reinforce the faith of those who already believe the Gospels are true.
A.B. Bruce’s The Training of the Twelve (Kregel Publications, 1988, along with many other editions) offers the strongest examination of the Gospels’ content. The book was first published in 1871 and carries this subtitle: Timeless Principles for Leadership Development. I agree with Stuart Briscoe’s assessment in his forward to my edition: “Although over 100 years old, Dr. Bruce’s work speaks powerfully and effectively to the contemporary Christian generation.” This book is a prime proof that we make a huge mistake if we assume old books have nothing to say to us today, and choose instead to read only new ones.
Craig Blomberg’s excellent Jesus and the Gospels (B&H Academic) offers an in-depth look at the Gospels, more in-depth, in fact than many students will want. It was first published in 1997, and a second edition in 2009 increased the length from 384 pages to 512. It was written as a textbook and carries the subtitle, An Introduction and Survey. As one reviewer observed, “Pretty much anyone can benefit” from this “accessible guide to Jesus and the Gospels.”
Bob Mink serves as senior pastor with Discovery Christian Church in Moreno Valley, California, and as adjunct professor with Hope International University, Fullerton, California.