Why We Need the Gospels

Jonathan Pennington* has written an extremely helpful book on reading, understanding, teaching and preaching the Gospels: Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction (Baker Academic, 2012). Early in the book Pennington gives “Nine Reasons We Need the Gospels” (pp. 38-49, italics original).

  1. First, we need to study the Gospels because they have been central to the Church throughout its history.
  2. A second reason we need the Gospels is because Paul and the other New Testament writers presuppose and build upon the story and teaching of Jesus.
  3. Third, another closely related  reason we need a healthy diet of the Gospels is because although the written form of the Gospels is subsequent to most of the Epistles, the traditions behind them are not; they go back to the time of Jesus himself and the immediately following years, passed down through oral (and eventually written) repetition.
  4. A fourth reason we need the Gospels is that in them we get a more direct sense of the Bible’s great story line.
  5. Closely related to the preceding point, the fifth benefit of the Gospels is that they offer a concentrated exposure to the biblical emphasis on the coming kingdom of God.
  6. Sixth, we need the Gospels because there are different languages or discourses of truth.
  7. Seventh, pushing this even further, I would suggest that not only are the Gospels a different discourse of truth; they are in many ways a more comprehensive and paradigmatic type of map.
  8. An eighth reason we need the Gospels is because encountering Jesus in narrative helps us grow in experiential knowledge and realize that reality does not always fit into neat little boxes of “truth.”
  9. Finally, we need the Gospels because in the Gospels alone we have a personal, up-front encounter with Jesus Christ.

Many/Most Evangelicals are Pauline in the sense of preaching from his Epistles and emphasizing justification and righteousness. These are essential truths! But we pay less attention to the Gospels and the key teaching of Jesus, the kingdom. This, too, is an essential truth and is foundational for understanding Paul’s teaching! Both emphases are necessary as they make up the one New Testament. Not only will this book help you to understand Jesus and the Gospels, it will also enable you to understand the rest of the Bible, with the Old Testament preparation for Jesus and the Gospels, and the application of Jesus’ person, teaching and ministry after His death, burial and ascension as recorded in the rest of the New Testament. This book fills a much-need gap for Evangelicals.

*Pennington received his M.Div. from TEDS, his Ph.D. from the University of St. Andrews, and presently serves as Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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