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Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels [Hardcover]

Mark L. Strauss


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Evangelical treatment on the Gospels 9 July 2007
By E. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having personally taught the Gospels at the Christian college level, I obviously have had to look over a number of appropriate texts before choosing only one to assign my students. Well, starting with the next time I teach the Gospels, I now have a new book to assign. Mark Strauss does an excellent job in Four Portraits, covering the important issues related to the Gospels. His writing style is smooth, lacking an "Ivory Tower" feel that could easily alienate potential learners, yet it is obvious throughout that Dr. Strauss is no academic slouch. Definitions are readily provided to new terms that are bold-faced, as he assumes nothing when it comes to the language of the New Testament. Even lay-learners outside the classroom setting would benefit greatly from this book--of course, an educational institution is not a requirement for reading and learning!

One thing that will be enjoyable for the reader is that this is a user-friendly book; it has plenty of fascinating pictures, charts, and short blurbs that will help keep the interest of even the most disinterested person. His charts (labeled "figures" in the book) are outstanding; he and the publisher worked very well together to produce some visual-learner tools that will be meaningful, even when the text hasn't been fully read or comprehended.

While Strauss obviously comes from an Evangelical position and shares his opinions throughout, there is not a feel that he is being overly dogmatic. He presents all sides of the issues in a very objective way. Several times I would have liked him to have been more opinionated. (For instance, he declines to give his final opinion for the dating of the individual gospels.) But perhaps this aspect should be considered a strength. Too often writers of overview books share too much of their opinions and end up creating straw men fallacies and biased information when they explain the viewpoints contrary to their own.

In addition, it is apparent that Dr. Strauss is a good educator, as he uses educational tools to make sure the reader understands each chapter. There are overviews and objectives at the beginning of each chapter, and he concludes with summary bullet points, key terms (maybe definitions for these terms could be included in future editions?--though I can see value in assigning students to write out the definitions themselves), and discussion and study questions. (The questions would make for an easy-to-assign task, especially if the professor is assigning two chapters a week for a quarter, as there are 20 total chapters--very convenient!) Each chapter also includes a bibliography of layperson's sources as well as more scholarly sources.

Whether a reader is liberal or conservative, there would be great benefit in using this book to overview the gospels. I encourage college and seminary professors to consider using this text for their classrooms, as I believe the students will learn to love this text. And, finally, I conclude by saying that Dr. Strauss should continue his good work and produce a similar book on the rest of the New Testament, because what he has done here will be useful for many years to come!
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy the Kindle edition! 25 Sep 2011
By Mr Michael L Drake - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Paying $23 for a Kindle book one expects quality. The body text renders well but the original layout of this book with charts (largely rendered as text in the Kindle edition) and call-out boxes (no box is shown in the Kindle rendering, just text inserted across the whole page, although usually a box is replaced by a blue line at the start and end of what is supposed to be an insert) makes following the text in the Kindle edition difficult. I have to use the original book in hard-copy to be able to make full sense of the Kindle edition. Not good enough by any standards! As for the hard copy - very easy to read, very well set out with apt illustrations and charts, and a great introduction to the study of the Gospels from a contemporary evangelical perspective. It's chapter summaries, charts of key terms, and discussion/study questions would make it useful with groups or classes, and for quick reference after it has been read. I expect to be making constant use of it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Christology In Easy-to-Read Format 8 Nov 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In conjunction with reading Jesus and the Gospels by Craig Blomberg I have also been reading this Christological gem of a book in parallel with it. These two books combined are the best evangelical treatment of Christ's life that I have come across. It will suffice to say that I have read many and these are broad spectrum and good overall treatments of Jesus Christ's life on Earth. The only book I have read that trumps these two is John R Stotts: The Cross of Christ.

The thing is though that Stott's treatment deals only with the redemption and salvational aspects of the Crucifixion and Resurrection and their affects on man. This book from Strauss coupled with Blomberg's is an exhaustive treatment that covers all possible angles of Jesus' life, ministry, Crucifixion and Resurrection. This book in particular is extremely well organized and leaves few stones unturned. It even refutes (rebukes) some of the wacky liberal theology theories that do not adhere to sound reasoning or sound hermeneutics. Especially the ones that have surfaced over the last 100 years to diminish or deny the deity of Jesus and the fact He is the Son of God. (*Cough*Bultmann*Cough*)

It dissects and dismantles the goofy theories that come from our deconstructionist and postmodern theological brethren. I wouldn't be surprised if many of the Emergent and TBN brethren have not taken the time to read books like this and plumb the depths of the Gospels in this detail. Where this book fails to pick the liberal turkey bones clean, its partner on my desk Jesus and the Gospels will finish cleaning the meat off the spiritually dead carcass.

To top all of this off it has high quality graphics and charts to aid in understanding. Go pay the fifty bucks and get them both. Come to think of it go and buy Stott's The Cross of Christ and while your at it buy John MacArthur's The Gospel According to Jesus for good measure. These books are all you really need to get a good solid conservative grasp of the Jesus Christ, His glorious ministry and His death and resurrection.

Rating: 97 of 100 (100 of 100 for graphics and charts alone)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Introductory Work on the Gospels 24 Nov 2013
By Narrowminded1 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For students of the four-fold Gospel, this is an excellent introductory textbook, giving the necessary outlines, backgrounds, and themes of the Gospels. I would highly recommend it for those who are sincerely interested in what the Gospels are all about and for those who seek to take their understanding of Jesus and the gospel writers to a slightly deeper level of understanding.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book as far as textbooks go 21 Sep 2013
By Karin Oxenham - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A very clear and accessible textbook. Good perspective on how we can approach differences in the different gospel stories and how these differences help us come to a fuller understanding of Jesus.
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