Bock

A Good Book Is Hard to Find: Charles Hill’s Who Chose the Gospels?

I have been reviewing books lately that are full of issues and whose conclusions are very debatable. Today I turn my attention to a book that is well reasoned, carefully done and that addresses an important issue, how we ended up only with four gospels in the Bible.

I have been reviewing books lately that are full of issues and whose conclusions are very debatable. Today I turn my attention to a book that is well reasoned, carefully done and that addresses an important issue, how we ended up only with four gospels in the Bible.

Charles Hill has just written Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy (Oxford University Press, 2010). This book is a careful examination of the evidence of the use and prevalence of the four gospels in the early church as well as a consideration of how widespread the other gospels were used. Hill examines papyri distribution, the differences between the use of a codex and a roll, and the figure of Irenaeus, who may argue is responsible for the four gospel canon or at least got that process stated. Hill challenges all takes on how we get to four gospels only that argue either for a fourth century selection (read DaVinci Code) or even one that puts the responsibility on Ireneaus. He does it by looking at figures who came before Irenaeus. These include Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, Tatian, as well as skpetics like Celsus. He points to the age and evidence of the Muratorian Canon interacting with those who argue it is too late to be of relevance. He also carefully considers what we know about Papias as reported to us in Eusebius.

In all these cases, Hill shows that most if not all of the four gospels were known or used by these writers. He also shows that the other gospels were almost no where to be found in these early sources. This is a solid book. Hill argues that in the end what we see are gospels that were recognized because they made an impression on the church as being of special value. No one held a synod to choose these works. Not only were they well established by the time of Irenaeus in the late second century. We see their use and value showing up at the turn of the first to second century right after they were written. It is nice to find a good book to read,one that is so full of good judgment and clear evidence. For those interested in the history of the canon and the gospels, this work will bring you up to date.

0

3 Comments

  • Avatar

    Christopher A. Cunningham

    Thank You

    Dr. Bock,

    Thank you for the insight you shared about Charles Hill's newest book.  It sounds like a good resource for those of us who write, speak and evangelize on a regular basis. It also sounds like one for the beach this summer!

    I'll look forward to reading it and will consider its conclusions as solid research for my next book.

    All the best,

     

    Christopher A. Cunningham, Author, "Jungle Warfare, A Basic Field Manual For Christians In Sales"

    0
  • Avatar

    ekerwin

    CHARLES HILL BOOK REVIEW

    Thanks for the review and recommendation! It was like a breath of fresh air after the last two reviews. It is also nice to know that there are people serious about defending God's word.

    0
  • Avatar

    Heather Griffin

    Dr. Hill at the Christian Study Center

    I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Hill give a lecture at the Christian Study Center in Gainesville, FL, several years ago that later helped form this book. He gave a follow up lecture last month in celebration of the Center's 10th anniversary. He is a wonderful scholar and a tremendous help for many students who were also examining Bart Ehrman's work in their classes. Thanks for highlighting Dr. Hill's scholarship!

    0