This critically acclaimed work argues that the four Gospels are based on the eyewitness testimony of those who personally knew Jesus. Noted New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham challenges the prevailing assumption that the stories about Jesus circulated as “anonymous community traditions,” asserting instead that they were transmitted in the names of the original eyewitnesses.
To drive home this point, Bauckham draws on internal literary evidence, the use of personal names in first-century Jewish Palestine, and recent developments in the understanding of oral tradition. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses also taps into the rich resources of modern study of memory, especially in cognitive psychology, refuting the conclusions of the form critics and calling New Testament scholarship to make a clean break with that long-dominant tradition. Finally, Bauckham challenges readers to end the classic division between the “historical Jesus” and the “Christ of faith,” proposing instead the “Jesus of testimony” as presented by the Gospels.
In this expanded second edition Bauckham has added a new preface, three substantial new chapters that respond to critics and clarify key points of his argument, and a comprehensive new bibliography.
“If, as I shall argue in this book, the period between the ‘historical’ Jesus and the Gospels was actually spanned, not by anonymous community transmission, but by the continuing presence and testimony of the eyewitnesses, who remained the authoritative sources of their traditions until their deaths, then the usual ways of thinking of oral tradition are not appropriate at all. Gospel traditions did not, for the most part, circulate anonymously but in the name of the eyewitnesses to whom they were due. Throughout the lifetime of the eyewitnesses, Christians remained interested in and aware of the ways the eyewitnesses themselves told their stories. So, in imagining how the traditions reached the Gospel writers, not oral tradition but eyewitness testimony should be our principal model.” (Page 8)
“In general, I shall be arguing in this book that the Gospel texts are much closer to the form in which the eyewitnesses told their stories or passed on their traditions than is commonly envisaged in current scholarship. This is what gives the Gospels their character as testimony. They embody the testimony of the eyewitnesses, not of course without editing and interpretation, but in a way that is substantially faithful to how the eyewitnesses themselves told it, since the Evangelists were in more or less direct contact with eyewitnesses, not removed from them by a long process of anonymous transmission of the traditions. In the case of one of the Gospels, that of John, I conclude, very unfashionably, that an eyewitness wrote it.” (Page 6)
Fascinating! . . . This book ought to be read by all theologians and historians working in the field of early Christianity. Further, Bauckham's convincing historical method and broad learning will also help pastors and students to overcome widespread modern Jesus fantasies.
—Martin Hengel, former emeritus professor of New Testament, University of Tübingen
The question of whether the Gospels are based on eyewitness accounts has long been controversial. Richard Bauckham, in a characteristic tour de force, draws on his unparalleled knowledge of the world of the first Christians to argue not only that the Gospels do indeed contain eyewitness testimony but that their first readers would certainly have recognized them as such. This book is a remarkable piece of detective work, resulting in a fresh and vivid approach to dozens, perhaps hundreds, of well-known problems and passages.
—N.T. Wright, professor of New Testament and early Christianity, St. Andrews University
Bauckham’s careful and eloquent presentation of his argument, supported not just by careful scholarship but by admirable common sense, deserves earnest consideration by all.
—Times Literary Supplement
It will be hard to take seriously future works on the origin of the Gospels that have not interacted with Bauckham. . . . Recommended.
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