I always love the summertime because it allows me to catch up on some long-neglected reading from the academic year. Over the past few weeks I have read several useful books, three of which I’d like to mention.
The first is Simon Gathercole’s, The Composition of the Gospel of Thomas: Original Language and Influences (SNTMS 151; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). I have been a fan of Simon’s work for some time now and the same is true for his most recent offering. He possesses such a strong command of the requisite languages that it’s hard to ignore his treatment, even if you walk away disagreeing. For those who read my blog or have read any of my work on the Gospel of Thomas, it’s no secret that I lean in the direction of an original Greek work that is dependent (to some degree) on the Synoptic tradition. Simon makes a sustained case for both, while also introducing other possible influences on the development of Thomas, including Paul, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the “Two Ways” tradition. In my opinion, the most convincing part of the book is found in Simon’s argument that Thomas shows its reliance upon the Synoptic tradition through the multiple instances of Matthean and Lukan redaction it retains. This book is very technical and one must have at least a basic working knowledge of the biblical and related languages. That said, this is an important book that is poised to make an enduring contribution to the study of the Gospel of Thomas.
The second book I have read and enjoyed is Jesus Among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), co-edited by Chris Keith and Larry Hurtado. This book combines the two methodologies most important to my own scholarship–historical criticism and narrative criticism, and is meant to fill a lacuna in historical Jesus scholarship. The volume introduces the reader to the most important figures in the life of Jesus (both friends and enemies, as the title indicates) by examining their presentation outside and inside the Gospel narratives. The book begins, I think appropriately, with a discussion of Jesus both within and outside the NT. Subsequent chapters discuss God, angels, various disciples, and Jewish leaders. I think this could be a useful text for several different graduate courses, including those devoted to the historical Jesus and the canonical gospels. The content is perhaps too advanced for the average undergraduate, though it could be used with benefit in some undergraduate contexts.
Finally, I have just received Brice C. Jones’s little volume, Matthean and Lukan Special Material: A Brief Introduction with Texts in Greek and English (Eugene, Ore: Wipf and Stock, 2011). Students of the Gospels are often forced to consult commentaries, synopses, and their Greek texts to locate and examine the material that is commonly labeled “M” and “L” by Gospels scholars. This creates a situation in which the student must have a number of volumes open at the same time and be forced to look continually back and forth for comparison. A scenario like the one just described was, in part, the genesis for the present volume. Jones writes, “The idea for this book developed during my own studies of the Gospels as a graduate student. I would often sit in my Greek exegesis classes on the Gospels with my Q parallels and Synopsis, and wish that I had at my disposal a small book that printed the special material of Matthew and Luke” (p. 13). This helpful little book consists of three chapters. The first chapter is devoted to a brief sketch of the synoptic problem and concludes with a decided preference for the Two-Source/Four-Source theory. Chapters 2 and 3 provide Greek texts and English translations of material unique to Matthew and Luke, respectively. I envision this being a helpful resource for students and scholars. Check it out if you get a chance.
I shouldn’t forget to thank the good people at CUP, Baker Academic, and Wipf and Stock for providing review copies of each book!