Professor Davd Black, of South Eastern Baptist Seminary, would have to one of the nicest scholars I have come across online. He is passionately pastoral in all aspects of his ministry. His blog is littered with stories of people and the country that consumes his heart, Ethiopia. I watched a snippet of his Greek teaching DVDs and the passion with which this man teaches Greek is astounding! With this in mind I received Dave’s book with some trepidation because I knew his view of the Synoptic Gospels differed somewhat to my own. I wondered how I might disagree with someone so nice!
Why Four Gospels is not only readable in style it is also the perfect size for any pastor or student. At only 106 pages it is packed full of good scholarship, a reasonable hypothesis and retainable information. The book is divided into three main chapters:
- “The Development of the Gospels”
- “The Origins of the Gospels”
- “The Making of the Gospels”
At the heart of Black’s thesis lies Matthean priori. His argument is based primarily upon the patristic witnesses. In chapter one Black provides his historical hypothesis of how he believes the church came to accept the four Gospels. In chapter two he shows how he believes the Patristic witness provides, and proves, Matthean proiri while also pointing us in the direction of why the Gospels were written. In chapter three Black explains how the Gospels came into being. In this chapter Black provides a reasonable account of the events and situations which led to each Gospel being written.
Over the coming weeks I will provide a summary of each chapter and my thoughts on Blacks findings, to be known as “Black Tuesday”. I do not feel I am at a level where I can critique Professor Black’s view with any real academic credibility. I can however, respond as a minister and this is the task I will devote myself to. Therefore, I will be providing reflections and thoughts which arose during my reading of the text as opposed to a scholarly critique.
In short, I’m not sure I agree with everything Black says but he certainly provides some rather compelling arguments for the Patristic evidence and against the Markan priori hypothesis. Having said that he is well on his way to convincing me. I found Black’s historical hypothesis a little too neat for my liking (see chapter one). However, I found his evidence for Matthean priori and origins of the Gospels compelling. His critique of the enlightenment is, in my opinion, spot on!
As someone who has for years bungled around the first four books of the New Testament wishing he knew more about how they came into being (having been told early on that they were written as Jesus ministered) I found myself reading this book and wishing someone had put it so simply (as Black does). This little book would be the perfect primer for a first year Ministry/Theology student. If someone in my church wanted to know more about how the Gospels came to be in the New Testament then I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to them.
There will be many, the more historically sceptical types, who will dismiss Black’s scholarship and hypothesis. Nevertheless, I believe Black raises some important questions for Biblical scholars and ministers to consider, as Richard Bauckham has also done. I can highly recommend this book!