In this book, through a distinctive evangelical and critical approach, Michael Bird explores the historical development of the four canonical Gospels. He shows how the memories and faith of the earliest believers formed the Gospel accounts of Jesus that got written and, in turn, how these accounts further shaped the early church.
In this study, Bird clarifies the often confusing debates over the origins of the canonical Gospels. Navigating recent concerns and research, he builds an informed case for how the early Christ followers wrote and spread the story of Jesus—the story by which they believed they were called to live. The Gospel of the Lord is ideal for students or anyone who wants to know the story behind the four Gospels.
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“The Gospels reflect not only ancient orality, but also ancient book culture. The oral gospel is to a written Gospel what a writer’s notebook is to a finished novel.” (Page 20)
“Second, Paul’s gospel, perhaps cued by local expressions of the imperial cult, placed a particular accent on Jesus’ victory.” (Page 18)
“A further plank of proof for continuity between Jesus and the church on the gospel is that Jesus very probably prepared others to continue the proclamation of his message.48 During his prophetic career, Jesus sent out disciples on itinerant missions to imitate his deeds and to replicate his message (Mark 6:6b–13, 30; Matt 10:1–42; Luke 9:1–6, 10; 10:1–20).” (Page 16)
“My own approach is what I would term ‘believing criticism.’156 This approach treats Scripture as the inspired and veracious Word of God, but contends that we do Scripture the greatest service when we commit ourselves to studying it in light of the context and processes through which God gave it to us.” (Page 68)
“Third, there is a constellation of critical questions pertaining to the sources, literary genus, and purposes of the Gospels. Specifically, what were the sources behind the Gospels, what genre are the Gospels, and why would anyone even write a Gospel?” (Page 4)
Studying the Gospels is daunting for the beginner and difficult even for the seasoned scholar. Mike Bird here slices a path through the tangled mess of older hypotheses and offers clear guidelines for the way forward. . . . Everyone will profit enormously from wrestling with the issues presented here in a fresh and compelling manner.
—N.T. Wright, professor of New Testament and early Christianity, St. Andrews University
Carefully researched and engagingly written. . . . Michael Bird asks all the right questions about the New Testament Gospels—what they really are, why they even exist, why these four Gospels and not others—and then provides very sensible answers. Bird shows that the Evangelists tell the stories of Jesus’ life, teaching, and deeds because Christian faith ultimately is about following Jesus. Scholars and students alike will find new and refreshing ideas in this instructive book.
—Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College
In The Gospel of the Lord Michael Bird treats with acute perception not only the ways in which the early church wrote the story of Jesus but also the ways in which modern scholars have reconstructed those earlier ways. The treatment is wide-ranging, thoroughly documented, evangelical, and eminently fair in its presentation of opposing points of view. Ideal as a required textbook for seminarians and as a compendium for all others engaged in the academic study of Jesus’ life!
—Robert H. Gundry, scholar-in-residence, Westmont College
Well-researched and well-written, this book is a delightful read from beginning to end. It contains both a state-of-the-art discussion of many complex Gospel issues and several creative suggestions for new ways forward. A great resource for studying the Gospels.
—Jonathan T. Pennington, director of research doctoral studies, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Michael F. Bird is lecturer in theology at Ridley Melbourne College of Mission and Ministry. He is the author of several books, including Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission, The Saving Righteousness of God, and with James Crossley, How Did Christianity Begin?