Why did the church, in forming its canon of scripture, choose to include four different and sometimes contradictory accounts of the life of Jesus, when others, like Tatian and Marcion, opted for a harmony, for one account?
Professor Hengel examines the external historical evidence for the creation of the Gospels by those documenting the early church, like Papias and Ireneus. He also analyzes the origin of the uniform title "Gospel according to" and the process of dissemination of the gospel.
He concludes that whether for the evangelists or for Paul, the gospel is both narrative and proclamation. Despite the problems caused by the different forms in which the gospel has come down to us, this very multiplicity remains a source of strength for the church.
Martin Hengel is Emeritus Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism at the University of Tübingen.
Reviews for The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ
"Whatever the eminent German scholar Martin Hengel writes is guaranteed to be substantial, well documented, and compelling...Hengel’s erudition and his forceful convictions always make his works informative and interesting."--The Bible Today, Nov/Dec 2000
"Libraries that have other books by this prolific and erudite author will want to add this latest." L. Gaston, Emeritus, Vancouver School of Theology, reviewing for Choice, March 2001
"Though never detached from laboriously reconstructed, historical argument, Hengel’s work delivers a theological payoff. In particular, his too-brief musings on the gospel narrative’s dialectical relationship with the Torah’s story of salvation renew this reader’s hope in the possibility of biblical theology." -- C. Clifton Black, Princeton Theological Seminary, reviewing for Theology Today, April 2001
A very bold and provocative account of the origins of the four Gospels…his erudite and fascinating argumentation deserves serious consideration. This stimulating tome wukk force many to rethink their positions regarding Gospel origins.--John Paul Heil, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary,Theological Studies, Sept. 2001.
"Most of the data on the canonical development of the gospels are well known, but Hengel offers an interesting refresher course as he examines and rearranges well-known pieces in this reappraisal of ancient lore…Readers of Hengel's work should not fail to mine the 807 notes appended to the main text. They will be well rewarded for their diligence. Three helpful indexes conclude this informative book, which is certain to ensure lively discussion, and not least of all for Hengel's conscientious inquiry into the meaning of "Gospel."- Frederick W. Danker, Currents in Theology and Mission, Feb. 2002
"Although some of Hengel’s conclusions will be controversial, any reader, from the student beginning serious study of the NT to the most seasoned scholar, can learn from this erudite and well-argued book…--Adela Yarbro Collins, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 63, 2001
"Hengel's latest volume applies his proditious scholarship to three related issues: the origin of the collection of four Gospels, the significance of the term "gospel" in early Christianity, and the central role of the Gospel of Mark...Those challenges make the book significant in the ongoing debate about the Gospels and the historical Jesus."--Jon A. Weatherly, Stone-Campbell Journal, Fall 2001