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Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony Hardcover – 1 Sep 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 504 pages
  • Publisher: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co (1 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802831621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802831620
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.4 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,334,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'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 --This text refers to the Perfect Paperback edition.

About the Author

Richard Bauckham is Professor of New Testament Studies and Bishop Wardlow Professor at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. A Fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, his recent books include The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting, published by Eerdmans.


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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
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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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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Format: Perfect Paperback Verified Purchase
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. But what is really great is the combination of scholarly depth and clarity. I have only read FF Bruce on the historicity of the NT, so picking up 'Jesus and the Eyewitnesses' was intimidating. But Bauckham writes so clearly and brings the issues to life in such a way that even a novice can feel at home in this book. This is fantastic!
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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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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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