Book Review: Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, Eerdmans, 2006
Richard Bauckham is a distinguished academic, a prolific author, and Professor of New Testament at St Andrew's University in Scotland.
In his latest book he works through the evidence of the four Gospels, and the writings of Papias [fl. 98-117 AD], in the context of various kinds of writing and historiography in the first century. He claims that the notion of eyewitness was recognised in the writing of history and in the writing of 'lives' of famous people in the first century, that it has good claim to be authentic, and that this kind of eyewitness account forms the substance of the four Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. Richard Bauckham applies this theory in great detail to the gospel of John, which he claims is the witness of John the elder of the church in Asia [not John son of Zebedee].
The significance of this claim must be seen against the background of Gospels' scholarship over the last 100 years. The key questions to ask is: what was the source and focus of the theological creativity which produced the Christian movement and which is reflected in the four Gospels? There have been three answers to this question over the last century.