Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective
Sometimes the Synoptic Gospels appear to differ on a given detail when recounting a story about Jesus. Historians and theologians speak of these variances as the “Synoptic Problem.” Augustine of Hippo went so far as to attempt to harmonize the Gospels, trying to make one unified Gospel from the four canonical ones.
In his book Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective, Francis Watson offers a refreshing approach to the problem. In nearly 700 pages, Watson explains how the Gospels should be treated as a necessarily interrelated whole. Believing each Gospel is worth studying independently, he details the reception history of each and compares them with the non-canonical gospels of Thomas and Peter, among others. He concludes that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John together comprise “a new text, more than and other than the sum of its parts” (453), and suggests that readers allow historical inquiry, biblical interpretation and theology to work together to understand how “the fourfold gospel is … the culmination and goal of all earlier gospel writing” (615).