Book Review: The Gospel of the Lord

The Gospel of the LordGospeloftheLord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus
By Michael Bird

Eerdmans, 2014

Reviewed by Bishop Stephen Hale

Any review of a Michael Bird book starts with a comment on his amazing output. I liked this comment from Nijay Gupta. ‘Now that Michael Bird has finished a major book on systematic theology as well as numerous works on messianism, the historical Jesus and the Theology of Paul, I wonder if it is time for Mike to extend his brand into cook books and romance novels!…. Let’s see if the Romans commentary he is working on kills him first.’

Michael lectures in Theology at Ridley College but has an extensive background in New Testament studies. ‘The Gospel of the Lord’ has received excellent reviews and was listed by Christianity Today as one of the books of the year in 2014.

The Gospel of the Lord is concerned ‘primarily with the questions of how the Gospels came to be, what kinds of literature they are, and how they relate to Christian discourse about God’(viii). It is not a Gospel survey, but rather a book that covers the complex issues related to the origins and development of the books we call ‘Gospels’ in the context of early church. Michael covers such matters as the transmission of the ‘Jesus tradition’, the Synoptic problem, the genre question, and the canonisation of the ‘Fourfold Gospel’, Mike deals with the non-canonical Gospels – why they were written, what they are about and how they were received by the early Christians.

In our highly skeptical age it is critical that we have a clear understanding of how the primary source documents for our knowledge of Jesus came into being and can be relied upon. Bird uses his typical aussie humour to enliven the book and traverses many scholarly disputes and discussions with clarity and a genuinely fresh perspective.

I enjoyed the book and gather from other reviews (from genuine Scholarly types) that it should become an standard academic text for years to come.