Wills, Garry. What The Gospels Meant. Viking (Penguin Group) 2008.
G.W.- professor of history emeritus at Northwestern University.
This is fine scholarly treatment of the Gospels. It would be an invaluable commentary resource for expository preaching of the Gospels.
Gospel of Mark.
This is the first Gospel (chronologically) “setting the pattern for the others”. (12) Mark speaks of persecution and betrayal. Jesus’ own family turned on him. There are hints about when the persecution of “Mark’s people” (29) took place. Mark affirms that Jesus is the Messiah. He points out parallels between Moses leading Israel in their Exodus and Jesus and his leadership of the disciples and others who followed him. The persecution of Mark’s people was caused by their insistence that Jesus was in fact the Messiah. Mark’s writings are full of “intercalations” (49), insertions (interruptions) in his stories. E.g. The story of Jairsus’ daughter is interrupted by the story of the woman with the issue of blood.
Gospel of Matthew.
Both Matthew and Luke were written after the destruction of the Temple. Matthew “collects the sayings of Jesus in five large discourses”. (58) Matthew and Luke did not know each other. Their accounts of Jesus’ birth are quite different. “The birth narratives are far from feel-good (Christmas) stories.” (63) Wills suggests that the term “virginal conception” (68) describes the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14.Matthew makes some unique comments regarding the death and resurrection.
The Gospel of Luke.
Luke is “the most humane of the evangelists”. (110) Luke’s record of the Nativity is the most popular one. “Luke’s is the Gospel most interested in liturgical matters.” (127) Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” (133) is compared to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Luke gives women greater attention than the other evangelists do.
The Gospel of John.
There are some controversies suggested about the (multiple ) authorship of this Gospel. John is considered the theologian. Jesus’ focus on the “inner life” (169) is illustrated by the stories of Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the adulteress, and Lazarus. The term “Beloved Disciple” is expounded. The last days of Jesus life demonstrate his humility as he rides on a donkey, the symbol of humility, and how he serves during the Last Supper. The person and place of “the Beloved Disciple” (192) are discussed.
The four Gospels “give us four different takes on the central mystery”. (207) Credit is given to Raymond Brown for his scholarly contributions to this study of the Gospels.