Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Three Questions with Craig Blomberg about Jesus and the Gospels

Craig Blomberg is Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, where he has served since 1986. His latest book is the second edition of Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, the first edition of which was published 12 years ago. About 9 years ago I read the entire book cover to cover, and I plan to work through the new edition (something I rarely do). But to my knowledge, there's no other book this helpful and accessible for working through the major issues related to Jesus and the four gospels. I highly recommend it. It is a model of clear communication and teaching. You can download for free the Table of Contents and the first chapter (on the political background from the intertestamental period.) Dr. Blomberg was kind enough to answer a few questions about the new edition:

Can you tell us a bit about the origins of this book? Why, and for whom, did you write it? I had taught a course on the Gospels for almost fifteen years, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels and could not find a single textbook that did something of substance with all five topics that form the five main parts of the volume--historical background, critical methods, introductions to each Gospel individually, a harmony of the life of Christ with selected interpretive commentary, and summaries of the historicity of the Gospels and the theology of Jesus. So I regularly assigned multiple textbooks, even while making my class lecture notes in outline form ever fuller. Eventually I created a spiral-bound notebook in prose as I began to ponder continuing to expand it into a "one-stop shopping" textbook. It is written for beginning seminarians or upper-division classes for undergraduate Bible majors, but with thoughtful laypersons and busy pastors in view as well. Even the seasoned scholar might stumble across a footnote or bibliography item pointing him or her to a source they were not previously familiar with. How do you see the Lord using this book to serve the Church? Inasmuch as many of the people in the categories I just mentioned teach and preach in local churches, or are preparing to, the book can form the core of what they will re-package, supplement, contextualize, and pass on to those among whom they minister. I have had to be selective in my exegetical comments, but I have tried to focus on all the major controversies or questions of which I am aware that tend to emerge in church circles rather than just what academics most like to debate. What has changed in this revised and expanded edition? The volume is about 15% longer. Occasionally, I have omitted a short section that I deemed was no longer as significant as everything else, but primarily I have supplemented the original text. Information on sociology and social-scientific criticism, literary criticism, the Gospel of John, the apocryphal and Gnostic Gospels, and issues related to the historicity of the Gospels are the main areas that have been most expanded. I have also substantially updated the footnotes and bibliography wherever I became aware of more recent sources that accomplished the same things that older ones did. A number of the charts have been revised, with a few new ones added. And I reread every sentence from the first volume to make sure that I still approved of its contents and its clarity and (on the comparatively rare occasions when I didn't) tweaked them as necessary.