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The Gospel and the Gospels
Christian Proclamation and Early Jesus Books
HARDCOVER; Published: 8/11/2022
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7759-8
Price: $ 55.99
600 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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A robust scholarly defense of the distinctiveness of the canonical Gospels. 

Do the four New Testament gospels share some essence that distinguishes them from noncanonical early Gospels? The tendency among biblical scholars of late has been to declare the answer to this question no—that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were grouped together by happenstance and are defended as canonical today despite there being no essential commonalities between them. 

Simon Gathercole challenges this prevailing view and argues that in fact the theological content of the New Testament Gospels distinguishes them substantially from noncanonical Gospels. Gathercole shows how the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each include four key points that also formed the core of early Christian preaching and teaching: Jesus’s identity as messiah, the saving death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and Scripture’s foretelling of the Christ event. In contrast, most noncanonical Gospels—like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Truth, and Marcion’s Gospel—only selectively appropriated these central concerns of early Christian proclamation.

Table of Contents

Part One: The Topics of Comparison
          1. The Comparanda
          2. The Comparator
          3. Justifying the Kerygma as a Comparator
Part Two: Description
          4. The Gospel of Mark
          5. The Gospel of Matthew
          6. The Gospel of Luke
          7. The Gospel of John
          8. The Gospel of Peter
          9. Marcion’s Gospel
          10. The Gospel of Thomas
          11. The Gospel of Truth
          12. The Gospel of Philip
          13. The Gospel of Judas
          14. The Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians
Part Three: Comparison and Conclusion
          15. A Comparison of Early Christian Gospels (Thesis 1)
          16. The Reception of the Kerygma in Early Christian Gospels (Thesis 2)


Crux Sola Best NT Book Award (2022)

Christianity Today Book Award in Biblical Studies (2023)

“Simon Gathercole has written a splendid book on a topic debated by scholars and of interest to the wider reading public. Well-known for his extensive work on noncanonical gospels as well as the New Testament, he makes a compelling case that theological content distinguishes noncanonical gospels from the four canonical gospels. From beginning to end, his approach is clear and his arguments are nuanced. This is a major contribution to the study of these early Christian texts.”
— Craig R. Koester
Luther Seminary
“This is a book with a bold thesis. It argues that the four gospels of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are theologically distinctive from other early Christian gospels in that they alone present the full message of Jesus’s teaching, death, and resurrection, which are elements that are understood to be central to salvation. The case is prosecuted with great care, and all the relevant sources are meticulously sifted. The book’s argument will be hotly debated, and it must be read by anybody with a serious interest in the gospels and the message of Jesus.”
— Paul Foster
University of Edinburgh

“In this magisterial monograph, the Cambridge scholar sums up his research from more than twenty years. In presenting the theological content of the various gospels, canonical and noncanonical, Gathercole provides a thorough contribution for distinguishing canonical from noncanonical gospels. Referring to the kerygma of the early period, he also gives an important clue for understanding the making of our gospels. Gathercole, thus, provides an indispensable contribution for further gospels research.”
— Jörg Frey
University of Zurich
“A fascinating and insightful journey into the world of emerging Christianity. Anyone interested in the gospels, early Christian identity construction and canonical questions will hugely enjoy Gathercole’s learned study.”
— Sandra Huebenthal
University of Passau, Germany
“This splendid volume goes against the tide of recent scholarship by claiming that all four of the New Testament gospels possess a distinctive theological profile that is not shared by most of the apocryphal gospels. This wide-ranging and insightful study stands as yet another significant contribution by one of the leading voices today in the study of the New Testament and early Christianity.”
— Catrin H. Williams
University of Wales Trinity Saint David

“In a stimulating and provocative way, Gathercole argues that the early Christian kerygma from 1 Cor 15 is the appropriate criterion for a comparison of early Christian gospels. This study is invaluable for further study of the relationship between canonical and apocryphal gospels and the formation of the four-gospel collection of the New Testament. It is a must-read for all who are interested in this debate.”
— Jens Schröter
Humboldt University of Berlin

“Gathercole’s work is informed by the extensive work on ‘apocryphal’ gospels for which he is already well known. His treatment of them is not at all disparaging. He is interested in understanding rather than evaluating. As a result, this book has wide-ranging significance for our understanding of how ‘gospel writing’—one of the defining features of early Christianity—developed.”
— Richard Bauckham
University of St. Andrews
“Gathercole’s interaction with and distillation of the most current scholarship on the Gospels, canonical and noncanonical, results in an enlightening, theologically engaging work that is an important contribution to Gospel studies. . . . Recommended.”