Books that Make a Difference
Every now and then you read a book that you recognize as saying something significant, even if you don’t completely agree with it. A book that makes a difference. At least that has been true for me. The books concerned don’t necessarily have to be brilliant from an academic point of view, or even popular, they just have that certain something that affects you.
The first to have this sort of impact on me was a book by Isobel Kuhn, By Searching. In it Isobel Kuhn tells of her life and calling as a missionary to China in the first part of the last century. She writes of how the Christian life is a search and that we know God by searching. This has modern resonances where search is the big thing in spirituality. The difference between Isobel’s search and the modern search was that she believed that when you searched you actually found something. In much modern teaching, it is the search itself that matters! Anyway, her book changed me and gave me hope at a time when I felt God was impossible to find.
I have just been reading a very different book. It is by Richard Bauckham entitled, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. It looks at our Gospels and asks questions about how we got them and how historically reliable they are. This is not just another book arguing that the Gospels either are or are not reliable historically. It tries instead to imagine how what we have in the Gospels came to be there in the first place.
What I get very annoyed about in much academic New Testament research is how far removed it is from the spirit that gave rise to it. The New Testament was not written as an academic exercise, but in the white heat of a new faith that had changed the lives of those involved. So much of what is written about the New Testament fails to take into account the inner motivation and convictions of the writers: it breathes a different and foreign air. Bauckham’s book, however, has an air of reality about it that most scholarly writing does not have. It is not always an easy read, but it is a fascinating one.
This is an extremely good review of it, and I think a fair one:
I hope Harvey is right and that we do get a paradigm shift in the way we look at the Gospels! It won’t be before time.