Summary and book reviews of The Four Witnesses by Robin Griffith-Jones

The Four Witnesses

The Rebel, the Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic -- Why the Gospels Present Strikingly Different Visions of Jesus?

by Robin Griffith-Jones

The Four Witnesses
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2000, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2001, 384 pages

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Book Summary

A judicious, skilled and closely integrated analysis of the Christian gospels.

The gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John are arguably the most important and influential books in Western history. Their accounts of Jesus do not simply add up to "The Greatest Story Ever Told," but "The Four Greatest Stories Ever Told." Why do they present such strikingly different versions of the same events? As the great filmmaker Akira Kirosawa demonstrated in his epic movie Rashomon, different witnesses can quite honestly remember the same event in very different ways. Now Oxford New Testament scholar Robin Griffith-Jones shows how the four gospels testify authentically yet very distinctly to Jesus' life, death, and message.

Jesus himself asked, ‘Who do you say I am?' If his question has ever intrigued you--if it has ever just caught your imagination--then this book has been written for you.

In The Four Witnesses, Robin Griffith-Jones brings the stories of Jesus to life for the contemporary reader as he revives the original power and intent of the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John as individual witnesses. He presents a lively discussion of how and why each of the four gospels was written, considering the substance and style of the testimony itself as well as the unique context of each story. Rather than entering into the current historical Jesus debates, he offers a fresh reading of the texts with new questions in mind, the same questions, often highly personal, that each Gospel writer sought to address in his own work. For them, as for us, Jesus presented a enigmatic, challenging figure. By seeking insight into the mystery of his life and work, they hoped to find a new way to see the world and to understand our relationship with God.

"Who do you say I am?" Each gospel offers its own answer to Jesus' question, influenced by the context of its writing and the personality of its writer. By examining the distinct light shed by each gospel writer on Jesus' life, work, and death, readers can discover which perspective speaks most clearly to their own needs, hopes, and fears, and decide how to respond to Jesus' challenge. Most importantly, they can encounter in all four gospels taken together what one alone could not provide: a remarkably full and compelling presentation of Jesus and his powerful message.

Chapter One
The Four Greatest Stories Ever Told

Welcome to The Four Witnesses. I hope you will enjoy reading this book as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Of one thing you can, I think, be confident: You are the sort of reader for whom I have been writing. For you know the book's title and theme, you have picked it up and looked inside. To have just that much interest in Jesus and the gospels - even if you have never opened the gospels themselves - is enough; it is the enjoyment of such readers as yourself that I have had in mind. You may in the past have found Jesus enthralling or frightening, comforting or simply bemusing. There are good grounds within the gospels themselves for every such response. You may know the story of Jesus like the back of your hand; you may know just its outline; or you may give it a thought only when Easter and Christmas come around. Jesus himself asked, "Who do you say I am?" If his question has ever intrigued you - if it has ever just caught your ...

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Library Journal

Though the book includes scholarly material, lay readers will understand it. Recommended for its refreshingly different content and perspective on the Gospels.

Author Blurb Rev. Prof. Peter J. Gomes, Harvard University, author of the bestselling The Good Book
The great mystery of the four Gospels and the one Jesus is given a clarifying explication and demonstration in this novel approach. It may well recapture for a new millennium the excitement about Jesus which characterized the first millennium of Christian faith.

Author Blurb Ron Hansen, author of Mariette in Ecstasy, Atticus, and Hitler's Niece
In this lucid and engrossing book, Robin Griffith-Jones integrates the story of Jesus with the story of four very different first-century communities that would be fundamentally transformed by his life and teaching. Accessible, learned, and unfailingly interesting, The Four Witnesses is a wonderful introduction to the gospels and their setting.

Author Blurb Krister Stendahl, former Bishop of Stockholm and Andrew W. Mellon Professor, emeritus, at Harvard Divinity School.
We have four striking portraits of Jesus in the Christian Bible and Robin Griffith-Jones makes us bold enough to really look at one at a time and let it sink in. Actually, it is in where one picture differs from the others that artists tell us what they have seen as important for understanding. That way of reading the Gospels is both spiritually and intellectually refreshing. As I have often said You cannot make whipped cream once you have homogenized the milk....

Author Blurb Rev. Daniel Berrigan, S.J.
The Four Witnessesoffers a judicious, skilled and closely integrated analysis of the Christian gospels. The literary coloration of each gospel is dealt with in the light of the community and culture out of which it rose. The scholarship is impeccable, the style light of heart and hand. And the entire work is suffused in faith - the faith of those ministered to by the author, and (dare one venture it), the faith of the author himself. We are the richer for the holy hyphenation.

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