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Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods

ISBN: 9781441254771

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Print list price: $26.00
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Interest in the historical Jesus continues to occupy much of today’s discussion of the Bible. The vexing question is how the Jesus presented in the Gospels relates to the Jesus that actually walked this earth.

Studying the Historical Jesus is an introductory guide to how one might go about answering that question by doing historical inquiry into the material found in the Gospels. Darrell Bock introduces the sources of our knowledge about Jesus, both biblical and extra-biblical. He then surveys the history and culture of the world of Jesus. The final chapters introduce some of the methods used to study the Gospels, including historical, redaction, and narrative criticisms.

Bock, a well respected author, provides an informed evangelical alternative to radical projects like the Jesus Seminar. His audience, however, is not limited only to evangelicals. This book, written for college and seminary courses, offers an informed scholarly approach that takes the Gospels seriously as a source of historical information.

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Top Highlights

“The synagogue as a place of prayer, gathering, education, and worship probably arose initially to make up for the absence of the temple and then the problem of distance from Jerusalem after the temple was rebuilt.” (Page 83)

“Intimate knowledge of the original community to which each Gospel was addressed is not a requirement for understanding the key elements of a Gospel’s message, though where such can be determined, they help us to grasp a Gospel’s message more precisely. What we do need to appreciate is the general culture in which these works were written, as well as the culture in which Jesus lived.” (Page 14)

“The exposure to the belief systems of other nations intensified strands of ideas already present in Judaism” (Page 83)

“Their goal was to witness to Jesus and strengthen the new communities formed around him. They wrote about the Jesus they knew, the Jesus they preached, and the Jesus others needed to know.” (Page 13)

“First, we lack records from numerous major figures of the ancient world” (Page 46)

This brief historical survey is first class—better than most others I have read that cover the 'Second Temple' period. I shall have no hesitation in recommending this book to my students.

—David M. Jacobson, London University

All those seeking a reliable guide to the historical study of Jesus may be advised: run, don't walk, and place your order for the book Studying the Historical Jesus. As the subtitle promises, this is truly 'A Guide to Sources and Methods.'…Bock sorts out the historical stages of critical scholarship on the Gospels during the past two centuries, and offers a judicious assessment of the value of historical criticism, source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, tradition criticism, and narrative criticism.

—R. Douglas Geivett, Christian Research Journal

The book is an extremely readable volume, and provides very good coverage of the considerable ground that it surveys. Students will find all the chapters in the book to be a very good combination of readability and density of material.

—Simon Gathercole, Themelios

Darrell L. Bock

Dr. Darrell L. Bock, research professor of New Testament studies and professor of spiritual development and culture at Dallas Theological Seminary, serves as editor-at-large forChristianity Today, and is on the board of Chosen People Ministries and Wheaton College. From 2000 to 2001, Dr. Bock served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society.

He has earned international recognition as a Humboldt Scholar for his work in Luke-Acts, historical Jesus study, biblical theology, as well as with messianic Jewish ministries. He has published articles in the Los Angeles Times and The Dallas Morning News and is a well-known author of over 30 books. His publications include Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods,Jesus According to Scripture, an NIV Application Commentary on Luke, Breaking the Da Vinci Code, and commentaries on Acts and Luke in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT) series.


6 ratings

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  1. Alessandro



  2. Forrest Cole

    Forrest Cole


  3. David Taylor Jr

    David Taylor Jr


    Dr. Bock does a masterful presentation of the source evidence to studying the Historical Jesus. There are many things going around about this topic today that make us shudder, this book helps us to combat those issues in a way that is knowledgeable and relevant.
  4. Robert  Leahy

    Robert Leahy


  5. David Leslie Bond
  6. Richard E Powell
    In a day of skepticism where the historicity of Jesus and the Gospel records are being called into doubt, Bock’s work is a welcomed voice of expertise, balance, and reason. The author shows that there are valid ways of assessing the sources of knowledge concerning Jesus that uphold the reliability of the biblical record. In the era of the Jesus Seminar this is vitally important. Many people hear the outrageous claims of this group and others of their ilk without understanding their philosophical biases or their research methods. Their conclusions that seek to undermine confidence in the historical reliability of the Gospel records and that disfigure the biblical portrait of Jesus may sound compelling to one untrained in biblical research methods. It is here that "Studying the Historical Jesus" proves its value. Bock has supplied beginning students of the Gospels with a helpful overview of the techniques and tools available for the pursuit of discovering the historical Jesus. He couples this with a demonstration of each method’s strengths, and limitations. He skillfully interacts with the different expressions of the critical method, showing that one need not shy away from these tools when thoughtfully used. He aims to help the student understand the world into which Jesus came and the ways the Gospels came to us (p. 214-15). Bock does more than demonstrate that the historical Jesus is the same as the Jesus of faith; he shows the student how to come to this reasoned and studious conclusion for himself. This book is both a response to the critics who deny the congruity between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of the Gospels as well as a primer for students who want to evaluate the evidence for themselves. There is no doubt that Bock holds a high view of the Scriptures and wants to aid the Gospel student to have confidence in them. Knowledge of these methods will aid the student as he interacts with the biblical sources. Awareness will also prove invaluable as he interacts with technical commentaries on the Scriptures enabling him to grasp the methods and biases of the scholar. As one reads this book he gains an awareness of the debates and methods used by scholars in attempts to discover the historical Jesus, thus arming himself with a basis upon which to evaluate the conclusions. One of the most helpful aspects of Bock’s work is the wealth of information provided to the Bible student concerning the biblical background and culture of Jesus’ day, especially the chapters on the basic chronology of Jesus’ life, the political and sociocultural history that shaped Jesus’ world. The author’s analysis of the cultural context of Jesus helps the student appreciate the differences between Jesus’ culture and our own. This information proves invaluable to one who aspires to accurately interpret Scripture. To be a good expositor of the Gospels one must first be a skilled exegete of Scripture. Bock supports this pursuit by clarifying the cultural setting of the Gospels and the life and ministry of Jesus. Armed with this knowledge the Bible teacher or preacher can accurately interpret the biblical narratives and communicate the original meaning to a modern audience. The insight contained in this section alone makes this book deserving of a place in every preacher’s library.


Print list price: $26.00
Save $2.01 (7%)