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Discovering Jesus [Paperback]

ALEXANDER T D


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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique aspects of gospels explained 20 Dec 2010
By Ricky Kirk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Why are Matthew, Mark and Luke called the synoptic gospels? Which gospel was written first? Why are there differences between them? Why is the gospel of John so different? What is Q?

If you have ever wondered about these or other questions, then T. D. Alexander's book, Discovering Jesus: Why Four Gospels to Portray One Person?, provides an excellent overview that will begin to answer those questions. After providing an brief overview and then highlighting the common themes between the four gospels, Alexander covers each gospel with two chapters. It is here that the unique aspects of each gospel is explained, covering such areas as audience, authorship, date, and the portrait of Jesus that is being recorded.

The book is a well-written, simple to understand, and a much needed overview of the gospels. While providing a solid overview, it doesn't use academic and theological words, making it easy for the person in the pew to read. I will reference this work in my teaching of New Testament survey to my church when we cover the gospels, and will recommend it to anyone wanting to gain a greater understanding of Jesus through the gospels.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent overview of the Gospels! 10 Mar 2011
By K. L. Haschke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In the last six months or so, I completed the Bible in 90 Days challenge and also went through a study of the entire New Testament with my church. Reading books in the context of the whole has been a wonderful experience for me, and of course the four Gospels are a major piece of that reading.

Since I'd just finished going through them, I was very interested when Crossway sent me a review copy of Discovering Jesus: Why Four Gospels to Portray One Person?, a short book exploring and comparing the Gospels, showing how they portray Jesus in four distinctive but complementary ways.

The Gospels are our primary source of information about the life of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, most Christians don't have a clear understanding of them. This is due in part to the considerable overlap in content, which causes them to tend to blur together in our minds. Another factor is the usual method of reading them in a piecemeal fashion, taking passages from here and there and making little attempt to see them in the context of the whole. Discovering Jesus was developed in response to this trend. The material was originally taught by the author as a course on the Gospels and was reworked into book form.

How do the Gospels differ from each other? What is distinctive about each one? How is each one organized? Chronologically? Topically? What is the key theme or focus of each one? Discovering Jesus addresses these and many other questions.

Don't be fooled by the relatively short length of the book. It's chockful of clearly laid out, easy to understand information. It opens with a brief overview of all four gospels, then, beginning with Mark, which is believed to be the earliest Gospel, spends two chapters on each one, addressing the structure, key themes, and sources of each. There are very helpful charts and diagrams and thoughtful discussion questions included in each chapter. The two concluding chapters discuss the composition of the Gospels...how they came to be written down in their final form...and final observations about their significance in giving us an appreciation and understanding of Jesus' uniqueness. There's a thorough list of resources for further reading included at the end.

I'd learned some of the basic information here in the past. For example, I was familiar with the key themes and different audiences of each of the Gospels: Matthew is written to a Jewish audience and portrays Jesus as the Messiah, Luke is written primarily to Gentiles and emphasizes Jesus' role as the Savior of the world, etc. Discovering Jesus covers all this plus much more. I really benefited from how clearly the book lays out the literary structure and distinctiveness of each book, showing exactly how they harmonize and where they differ.

It all sounds so technical with my talk of themes, organization, and charts, but that's really not the sense I had while reading. The book truly gave me a new appreciation for the uniqueness, order, and purpose of each Gospel and how beautifully they complement each other. I think it would make an excellent foundation for group or personal study. I plan to go back through it slowly while reading through the Gospels again, even though I gained much just by reading straight through.

The author's hope is that, "By appreciating the distinctive contribution that each Gospel makes to our understanding of Jesus, we, too, can begin to derive a much richer picture of who he is." I think Discovering Jesus is an excellent resource in that goal!

Thank you to Crossway for providing a review copy of Discovering Jesus to me. All opinions expressed are my own.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A simple and effective consideration 21 Nov 2011
By Walker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Brief, clear and faithful, this slim volume provides an overview of all four Gospels, including chapters on their common themes and composition, as well as developing significant themes of each Gospel individually. Aware of critical approaches, and yet not a slave to them, this is a helpful introduction to the study of the Gospels. While not immediately devotional in its outlook, the author nevertheless provides us with information about the men who wrote of the Saviour, and the way in which they did so, in such a way as to illuminate helpfully the person and work of the Lord Christ. For those who need to grasp some of the technical and critical issues involved in the study of the Gospels without becoming bogged down by them, this would be a good volume to have.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gospel Primer 5 Jun 2011
By Paul Manata - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In this helpful book - which manages to package an ambitious goal with a wide scope in a small, slim package - T. Desmond Alexander, the regarded biblical theology scholar, presents the one Jesus introduced in four different Gospels. This book would be most helpful for a new or young Christian or someone undertaking their first study of the Gospels. I believe that after reading this book one will be better prepared to approach the Gospels and understand the basic message of each. Discovering Jesus gives the reader a couple of main themes each Gospel employes and that appear to drive or motivate the Jesus presented in that Gospel. These themes are based on history, though, and are not theological "agendas" produced by the early church to gain the upper-hand in an early battle for religious power. However, all of this is done in a very introductory manner, making it ideal for the beginning Christian or Bible student (though no doubt more well-read students of the Bible could stand to profit from some of the insights). Here's a short overview of the book

- Chapter one gives a brief overview of the Gospels. Briefly, similarities and differences between the synoptic gospels are presented -- often aided by helpful charts and images -- and then John's Gospel and its differences with all the synoptics is covered. The conclusion is that the Gospels all share the same goal -- to present the good news of Jesus Christ, and while they do so with different perspectives, these perspectives are also complementary, all combining to give as a well-rounded picture of the most unique individual who has ever lived.

- Capter two presents common themes in the Gospels, these are: (1) fulfillment on Scripture, (2) the kingdom of God, (3) hostility, (4) centrality of the passions, (5) salvation and the gentiles, and (6) the importance of faith. These themes are seen to greater or lesser extent in each Gospel, but some authors focus more heavily on some than others. Probably the most important or central theme is (4), which is why the Gospels have sometimes been referred to as "passion narratives with extended introductions."

- Chapter three and four focus on Mark's gospel. In approaching Mark, Alexander ever-so-briefly covers introductory issues like authorship and dating. He then presents some of the main themes that can be distilled from Mark. He finds that Mark focuses heavily on the theme of "Jesus as the son of God who suffers to ransom others," and secondly the notion of discipleship, which is tied together with the first theme in that disciples follow Jesus in the way of the cross.

- Chapter five and six focus on Matthew's gospel. He offers the same kinds of introductory remarks on authorship and dating as he did with Mark and then looks at key Matthean themes. The first theme is the theme of conflict. He notes Matthew is keen to point this out and especially focuses on the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leadership, which is interesting since Matthew's is the most "Jewish" of the Gospels. The second theme, in keeping with the Jewishness of the Gospel, is the idea that Jesus is King, a King who descended from David. Jesus is the son of David, the divinely promised Messiah who inaugurates the kingdom of heaven.

- Chapters seven and eight turn to Luke's Gospel. As with the above, similar introductory remarks are made. After these comments, Alexander turns to the first major theme found in Luke, i.e., the Holy Spirit. He points out how Luke is especially interested in the Holy Spirit, more so than the other Gospels. A second theme pointed out in the Holy Spirit chapter is that of prayer. The next chapter looks at Luke's theme of Jesus as the one who comes to seek and save the lost. Alexander points out how Luke addresses this notion of "finding the lost" more than the other evangelists. Salvation is a major factor, especially the salvation of those of a lowly social status as well as gentiles. Luke presents Jesus as the savior of the world to seek the lost. The last chapter briefly ends with the theme of joy and happiness, the appropriate reaction of those who have been saved.

- Chapters nine and ten approach the final Gospel, John's. Similar introductory comments on authorship, dating, and structure are made. The first theme is that of believing (though John's Gospel is "too rich" to really find themes to encapsulate his ideas). He notes John clearly encourages and wants his readers to believe, "psiteuo" (to believe) occurs ninety-eight times, over 1/4 of all occurrences in the New Testament. The next theme is that of the new exodus. Alexander describes how John seeks to make comparisons between Jesus and the book of Exodus. There are several similarities here, from the "signs" intended to induce belief, to the "I am" statements, to the passover, and to the leading of the covenant people out of slavery and into new life. So jesus is presented as the Lamb of God who brings eternal life through a new exodus.

- Chapter eleven briefly looks at the composition of the Gospels, covering the "synoptic problem," i.e., how do we account for the similarity between them, which Gospel has priority, and Alexander seems to come down on the side of Markan priority. Alexander then turns to different ideas about the Gospels, whether they are biographies, proclamations, distinctive theologies, or stories. While these views have their problems, especially the last three, there is some truth to all of them. However, the main thing to keep in mind is that history underwrites the story. The good news is rooted in history, and unintelligible apart from it.

The last chapter (twelve) is a review and final observations. The final observations are to grasp the full significance and weight of words like "Jesus is Lord and savior," and to recognize that Jesus is more than a mere man, he's the God-man, "the most unique and incredible 'man' who ever lived and continues to live."

Alexander also includes a helpful biography for "further reading" so that you can take the basic foundation he's laid and expand on it.

All-in-alll, this is a helpful book. It is introductory, and several issues are not discussed, or if they are, only briefly. Issues such as seeming "contradictions" or "inconsistencies" between the gospels are not even mentioned, though one might get the idea that they would be given the topic of the book and prior knowledge of questions that are asked of the "differing Gospels." Thus this book isn't very helpful for apologetic issues, though there may be some slight relevance to those discussions to be found. If this is kept in mind and expectations are in-line with the topic of the book -- some key themes of the Gospels -- readers, especially beginning students, should profit from this little book. As Darrell Bock says on the back cover, "Discovering Jesus will get you well-oriented and open up a lifetime of reflection about Jesus."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good introduction to gospels 3 Oct 2011
By britton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very short introduction to a theology of the gospels. If you are looking for something technical and advanced, this would not be the book to go to. However, Alexander does a superb job introducing the main themes of each gospel. Additionally, he does an able job showing where the gospels intersect and where they are distinguishable. This book is recommended for a beginner book on the gospels.
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