Review: Preaching the Gospel from the Gospels, by George Beasley-Murray

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This book is far more a book on the Gospels than it is on preaching.  It would serve well as a reference tool for the gospels, having an accessible scripture index included.  Yet while not addressing homiletics very much, what it does is share a fundamental conviction that the gospels were written out of preaching, by preachers and are ideally suited to the contemporary preacher wishing to preach the truth of the gospel today.

George Beasley-Murray is a top gospels scholar.  This book was forty years in the writing, beginning as a series of lectures, then published, then revisited and rewritten in light of developments in the field.  Preaching the Gospel from the Gospels is an academic work with a door left open for ease of access for preachers.  While aware of aspects of form criticism, the historical Jesus quest, British and German scholarly traditions, etc. the book does not get weighed down with such matters. 

The book, as you might expect from a series of lectures, consists of five lengthy chapters.  The first chapter focuses on the relationship between preaching and the writing of the Gospels – it is worth the value of the book.  As Martin Dibelius said, “In the beginning was the sermon.” 

Certainly the evangelists were collectors and compilers of known stories, sayings and events of the life of Christ.  However, they were more than that.  Through the process of redaction they were theologians with unique and distinct emphases to bring out regarding the work and mission of Christ.  One great insight from redaction criticism is that of how the gospel was presented to a specific audience.  As we see the evangelists using the history for a specific group of people, there is scope for the modern evangelist to see how the story of the gospel can likewise be used for a different contemporary audience.

The remaining four chapters deal with the life, the miracles, the teaching and the parables of Jesus.  Each writer began conceptually with the resurrection of Christ, then told the story, theologically, according to their specific goals.  The stories from the life of Christ, such as the miracles, are designed with the gospel as central rather than appended.  The teaching and parables are grouped and explained in five categories each.

In conclusion Beasley-Murray finishes with a postscript that affirms Jesus himself to be the parable of God.  As such, the truth of His teaching is ultimately found in His person.  This would be true of the whole book – His parables, but also His miracles, His teaching, His life, His passion.  Jesus is the revelation of God.  In preaching Jesus, the gospel is preached.  I suppose the big message of the book is that you don’t have to hunt through the gospels to find a gospel message.  If the content of the gospels are preached faithfully to their original intent, then the gospel will be preached.

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