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Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony [Kindle Edition]

Richard Bauckham
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

'Jesus and the Eyewitness' argues that the four Gospels are closely based on the eyewitness testimony of those who knew Jesus. The author challenges the assumption that the accounts of Jesus circulated as 'anonymous community traditions', asserting instead that they were transmitted in the name of the original eyewitnesses. To drive home this controversial point, Bauckham draws on internal literary evidence, the use of personal names in first-century Jewish Palestine, and recent developments in the understanding of oral tradition. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses also taps into the rich resources of modern study of memory, especially in cognitive psychology, refuting the conclusions of the form critics and calling New Testament scholarship to make a clean break with this long-dominant tradition. Finally, Bauckham challenges readers to end the classic division between the 'historical Jesus' and the'Christ of faith', proposing instead the 'Jesus of testimony' as presented by the Gospels. Sure to ignite heated debate on the precise character of the testimony about Jesus, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is a groundbreaking work that will be valued by scholars, students, and all who seek to understand the origins of the Gospels.

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'Bauckham's proposal is both path-breaking and a tour de force.' --First Things

'As in all of his works, Bauckham has ransacked obscure secondary literature for little-known but immensely helpful information. He has thought creatively about time-worn problems and uncovered possible interpretations of subtle features of ancient testimony both in the Gospels and about them with the shrewdness of a good detective.' --Trinity Journal

'Bauckham has delivered a remarkable and insightful volume that is sure to offer a much-needed challenge to the status quo in modern gospel studies.' --Westminster Theological Journal

About the Author

Richard Bauckham is professor emeritus of New Testament studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and senior scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. A fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, he has also written Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World. Visit Bauckham's website at

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1244 KB
  • Print Length: 553 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0802831621
  • Publisher: Eerdmans (22 Sept. 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EP9MRK8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #307,217 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful Scholarship -- Intriguing Speculation 3 July 2007
This book sets out to establish that the Gospels compare favorably with other historical and biographical literature from the Classical period, and it makes an admirable case for that proposition. The author recounts the methods of Classical historians and biographers and posits certain literary conventions they used to warrant the accuracy of their text. He then turns to the Gospels, finding that they not only conform to good Classical historiographic methodology, they also make use of the Classical literary conventions warranting accuracy.

Basically, he finds that Classical historians highly valued eyewitness testimony as a basis for their works, and that the Gospels showed the same care to base their accounts on eyewitness testimony. He also demonstrates how, through the use of Classical literary convention, the Gospels identify the eyewitnesses to the various events they recount.

Bauckham engages in a statistical study of the names of minor characters mentioned in the Gospels, and his findings should raise more than a few eyebrows. It is a complex study, but the bottom line is that the statistical distribution of names of minor characters validates the historical accuracy of the Gospels.

Bauckham also tackles the identity of the Beloved Disciple, drawing parallels between the Beloved Disciple's relationship to Jesus and Porphyry's relationship to Plotinus. Porphyry was a disciple of Plotinus who wrote a biography of that philosopher, and whose self-portrayal in that biography mirrors the portrayal of the Beloved Disciple in the Fourth Gospel. Bauckham identifies the Beloved Disciple as the author of the Fourth Gospel and the three letters of John, and names the Beloved Disciple as John the Elder of Ephesus, a young Jerusalem disciple of Jesus who was not a member of the Twelve.

Interesting reading, to say the least.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format:Perfect Paperback
This is a chunky book with over 500 densely-packed pages, footnotes and exhaustive indices. Initially perhaps appearing rather formidable, I found myself drawn into the book very quickly Richard Bauckham discusses whether the gospels are based on eyewitness accounts and his thorough survey of documents from the time, the early church fathers, names in Palestine and more gives a coherent and persuasive argument that the gospels would have been recognised as coming from eyewitness accounts at the time.

Although a complex subject which is deeply explored, the book is never boring. Some facility with Greek might aid the reader (although the Greek is transliterated into the Roman alphabet) and a basic knowledge of critical methods and early church fathers would be helpful, but this is the sort of book that offers many interesting insights to the reader, whether or not they are New Testament scholars. Whether other scholars will agree with Bauckham's conclusions is not clear, but his book sets out his arguments in a convincing way for this reader.
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85 of 105 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an important, scholarly and absorbing book. It should be read by anyone involved in New Testament studies. Yet its central thesis deserves to be treated with caution. The thesis might be summed up in Bauckham's own words.
The "period between the `historical' Jesus and the Gospels was actually spanned, not by anonymous community transmission, but by the continuing presence [sic] and testimony of eyewitnesses, who remained the authoritative [sic] sources of their traditions until their deaths" .
As a historian I have many reservations about the way in which Bauckham deals with evidence especially eyewitness evidence which is traditionally treated by historians with caution especially when it is first recorded many years after the event. It is a sad fact that eyewitnesses seldom remember what historians want them to have remembered! His concept of `testimony' is also difficult to deal with as it seems to imply than the evidence of anyone who heard Jesus is somehow more reliable than eyewitness accounts of other events. Yet the emotional drama surrounding many of Jesus' reported activities, large crowds, open disputes, apparent miracles and the trauma of the crucifixion are precisely the kinds of events which do not get reported accurately. Participants are hardly likely to maintain the level headed approach needed for accurate reporting. One sees this everyday in the press!
Bauckham talks of the `continuing presence' of eyewitnesses. Excavations of burials at the Qumran community suggest that few men lived beyond forty in this period. Someone who was the same age as Jesus was more than likely to have been dead by AD 40, someone ten years younger by AD 50. The likelihood of any eyewitness surviving into the 70s, let alone the 80s and 90s, is certainly remote.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transformative 19 Aug. 2013
Format:Perfect Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the most exciting book i have read on a serious subject for as long as I can remember. It is not easy going but it brings home powerfully the historical reality of theChristian story and is a fascinating work of scholarly detection
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Perfect Paperback|Verified Purchase
A word on the rating, first of all. I was very torn between giving this 3 or 4 stars. If Amazon allowed us 3.5 stars, then that's what I'd give it. On the one hand, it is a work of immense scholarship that is very worthy of careful consideration. On the other, it is extremely dry and in places, really rather dull. Also, not all of the arguments made are convincing, though others may disagree on this.I would not recommend this for the casual reader, unless your definition of "casual" involves nuanced analysis of ancient Greek grammar, amongst other things.

The book covers a range of topics that I don't have the space to cover adequately here. They include an analysis of the possibility that Mark's Gospel was largely based on Peter's testimony, the transmission of oral history (where he looks at the work of Kenneth Bailey and some of the form critics), the psychology of memory, the authorship of the gospel of John and the identity of the "Beloved Disciple."

Bauckham does not think that the 4 gospels were all first-hand eyewitness accounts. Rather, his assertion is that they faithfully record the eyewitness testimony of others, with few distortions between the eyewitness testimony and the written gospels we have today.

There is one interesting omission, which I felt was not dealt with properly, and that was the relation of Matthew & Luke to the nativity. In his chapter "Eyewitness from the beginning" Bauckham is clear that this refers to the beginning of Jesus' ministry, when he was around 30 (according to John). But there is no space given to the discussion of the possible eyewitnesses to the birth of Jesus or his early life.

In conclusion, it's not for the faint-hearted.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book - the author leaves no stone unturned
An excellent book - the author leaves no stone unturned. Not for the faint- hearted as the detail is immense.
Published 5 months ago by Malcolm S Hindmarsh
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book from an erudite author
Published 6 months ago by Mr M.A.Gisbourne
5.0 out of 5 stars A gentle but thorough guide through complex issues
What a fantastic book! Each chapter is fascinating and I come away feeling better equipped to understand the gospels themselves, and to contend for their historicity. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Robert Daniel Edmondson
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
This book should be in the hall of fame of one of the best Historical Jesus books.The new insights and detail are very illuminating. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Ernest Ombayo
5.0 out of 5 stars An evidence - based approach to the writing of the Gospels
This is a fresh look at the way the Gospels were written based on evidence rather than on assumption. Read more
Published 16 months ago by John Thorpe
4.0 out of 5 stars Lot's of useful information
There is a lot of useful information in this book. Richard Baukham proves that eye witness were involved in the writing of the Gospels. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Nyall Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
A thorough and scholarly book: its argument that the authors of the Gospels should be seen as reliable eyewitnesses effectively challenges the views of form criticism.
Published 24 months ago by Angela Swindley
2.0 out of 5 stars Too narrowly focussed
1. In this 500-page volume, Bauckham constructs a scholarly but turgid and somewhat tenuous case for claiming that the gospels are based on eyewitness accounts. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Mr. D. J. Warden
4.0 out of 5 stars A Convincing Case
Bauckham argues that: (a) the Gospels were written by people who had immediate contact with eyewitnesses of the events they describe, and (b) that this eyewitness testimony would... Read more
Published on 30 Sept. 2011 by Mr. J. Hastings
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