The Gospels And Christian Life reads the four canonical Gospels as handbooks for religious formation through communal practices. The book focuses on the communities that produced each gospel, the dynamic energy each gospel displays for creating and sustaining community life, the different interpretations of the person of Jesus, and the different systems of organization and leadership each gospel promulgated. The authors carefully describe the social context of each Gospel and delineate the practices the texts prescribe. Each gospel has an imaginative portal, an introductory chapter introducing the necessary background for understanding the social, intellectual, and religious setting for each gospel. Their reading of each Gospel builds on these foundations to illustrate the nature and scope of the community's practices. Their work starts from the assumption that the communities did not look to the Gospels for biographical data on the life of Jesus to offer the reader a powerful reading of each Gospel community, its unique practices, and the way people were trained to become members of it. This book is aimed at undergraduate and graduate teachers and students, pastors, and the general audience eager for new ways to understand the New Testament.
This is a creative and engaging book, highly recommended for students for whom the Greco-Roman context of the gospels will come alive with exquisite detail. Full of information, but written in an accessible style with story-telling flair, the book will inspire readers to imagine the wider world that gave rise to the gospels as well as the worlds they are capable of evoking. -- Pamela Eisenbaum, Iliff School of Theology When you ask a new question, the world you thought you knew suddenly becomes a place of vast new discovery. Valantasis, Bleyle, and Haugh have broken open the gospels with a simple new question: How shall we live? They have seen that the gospels are not the embodiment of a set of beliefs, but a strategy of social formation and enculturation into the Empire of God. Their work is creative, intelligent, and above all revelatory. We should never be bored of the gospels again. -- Stephen J. Patterson, Eden Theological Seminary Recommended. * CHOICE, January 2010 * Writing in clear prose and incorporating examples from popular culture as a way to illustrate method and meaning, the authors of this intriguing volume strive to present the cutting edge of New Testament scholarship in accessible form. They succeed. The volume provocatively shifts the question of the gospels from the recovery of the historical Jesus to the individual gospel authors' project of community formation. It transforms the study of the gospels from a quest for the historical past into a dynamic understanding of Christian community formation that can still bear fruit today. -- James Goehring, University of Mary Washington