Item description for The Synoptic Gospels: An Introduction by Keith Fullerton Nickle...
Overview Nickle provides an updated edition of a proven textbook that fills the gap between brief treatments of the Synoptics by New Testament introductions and exhaustive commentaries. In a clear and concise manner, "The Synoptic Gospels" explores the major issues of faith that influenced the writers of the Gospels while utilizing the full range of critical and literary methods.
Keith Nickle provides a revised and updated edition of a well-respected resource that fills the gap between cursory treatments of the Synoptic Gospels by New Testament introductions and exhaustive treatments in commentaries. In a clear and concise manner, Nickles explores the major issues of faith that influenced the writers of the Gospels. "The Synoptic Gospels" is helpful for classroom or personal use.
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Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8" Width: 5.1" Height: 0.55" Weight: 0.55 lbs.
Release Date Nov 1, 2001
Publisher PRESBYTERIAN PUBLISHING #86
ISBN 0664223494 ISBN13 9780664223496
Reviews - What do customers think about Synoptic Gospels (Revised)?
A Scholarly Review of the 3 Gospels: Mark, Matthew and Luke May 17, 2005
This book presents an analysis of the 3 Synoptic Gospels: Mark, Matthew, and Luke through the use of "Form Criticism". The basic argument behind this literary criticism is that since these 3 gospels each follow the same basic narrative of the story of Christ, a careful study of the similarities and differences of each of them can lead to indications which community the author was addressing his gospel to, when the author was perhaps writing his gospel, and finally can provide indications on how his portrait of Christ addresses the various challenges of Christianity that the author and his community was facing at that time period.
Keith Nickle's presents his argument in a very logical manner which is both easy to follow, but gives a good introductory basis not only for the information he is trying to present, but also to allow the reader to delve into the New Testament themselves in order to gain a better understanding.
One important piece of information which any potential reader should take note of is the fact that Keith Nickle's does present this book on the theory that Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke were both using a copy of Mark and another document/collection of oral traditions commonly called "Q" in each of their writings of the gospels. Nickle's belief is that the gospels originated as oral traditions/Jesus one-liners/written bits and pieces and that Mark first took these various elements and combined it into the basic story of Christ which was circulating among the various early Christian communities of the era. This anonymous author of Mark did this both to provide a secure story of Christ his community could use to learn more about Jesus, but also to address concerns his community had over various challenges they were faced with.
I found this book to be very enjoyable and a good introduction to modern Biblical scholorship. It did not get a 5 star rating because I have spoken with other Biblical scholars who provide just as good an argument that Matthew was written first or that Luke perhaps was. The point is no one will ever really know for sure, but Nickle's is able to present his argument for why he believes Mark was created first in a way that is both convincing and informative.
A no-surprises introduction Jan 24, 2004
I read the first edition of this book some 20 years ago, just when I discovered Bultmann and fell in love with form criticism. At the time, Nickle's analysis impressed me to no end. But in the two decades between then and now, I've become increasingly suspicious of modern scriptural criticism (no, I'm neither a fundamentalist nor an evangelical!). So my reading of this updated edition has been a less powerful experience.
Nickle's survey of the three synoptics is better than many I've read. His text is fluid, user-friendly, and extremely organized. He gives what I still consider to be the best quick survey of the basics of form criticism available, probably because he keeps torturous teutonic jargon to a minimum.
But the book is relentlessly literary in its approach. Nickle deconstructs the three synoptics in a pretty predictable manner, making sure that he examines context, traces origins, classifies genres, and so on. But what he doesn't do, any more than most other scriptural scholars (hence my dissatisfaction with the approach) is to pretty much ignore the fact that the scriptures are meant to be read from a spiritual (as opposed to a metaphorical or similiac) perspective.
Three quick examples of the blindspots this approach breeds. In examining Matthew's Gospel, Nickle spends almost no time on the central image of the Kingdom, and utterly misses the possibility that the Kingdom is a codeword for present right relationships rather than an abstract eschatological possibility. (In this regard, he uncritically follows the 19th century conclusion that all the authors of scripture were positive the world was about to end.) In his examination of Mark, he gives the standard interpretation of the Messianic secret--Jesus' need to protect himself from the authorities--but doesn't in any way consider the possibility, suggested by Richard Rohr among others, that the messianic secret might also be a way of expressing the difficulty of recognizing the Lordship of Jesus--that most of us, including the original apostles, have a hard time getting what's going on. Finally, in his examination of Luke's gospel, Nickle concludes that Luke's concern for the poor and the abused is a "minor theme," thereby practically dismissing the not-at-all minor spiritual/social dimension to the gospel. How sad.
There's a time and a place for form criticism (as well as all the other critical methods that came out of Germany in the 19th century). But reading scripture in an exclusively textual manner is surely too limiting, and the problem with texts like Nickle's is that they give the impression that such a reading is the only game in town. Thus the heart of the Gospels--story, the spirit--runs the risk of being sidelined. Think of it this way. How weird would it be to read Tolstoy's *War and Peace* primarily to discover the different forms of literary expression it contains? After this rather tedious project is finished and neat classifications of the novel are formulated, the very important question still remains: yes, but what's the STORY?
A Fine Blend of Scholarship and Emotion Mar 13, 2002
True to his title, Nickle provides a great introduction to the study of the Synoptic Gospels. He discusses the issues of authorship, date, purpose, recipients, literary dependence, and distinct characteristics of each of the three. These discussions are sandwiched between an opening chapter concerning the gospel tradition and a closing chapter of other considerations related to the Synoptic Gospels.
Although Nickle is a scholarly writer, he manages to write with a style that fits an audience much wider than New Testament specialists. In fact, I became acquainted with this work through a college-level introductory course on the teachings of Jesus. This book is ideal for that kind of situation, and it would probably fit well in seminary courses also.
One of the best things about Nickle's style is the emotion that seeps through in his writing. The reader encounters in _The Synoptic Gospels_ not a dry and detached academician, but a man with great reverence for the gospel tradition who shares in the faith about which he writes. Many times while reading, I could imagine Dr. Nickle's voice raising with excitement as he shared with me the fruits of his study. Such an excitement can have a tendency to rub off on the reader.
I have withheld a perfect score of 5 stars because of some of the presuppositions that are implicit in the author's methods and conclusions. In line with modern critical scholarship, Nickle does not hold to the traditional authorship of the synoptic gospels, gives them late dates, and believes that the early Church was in the habit of creating pericopes and sayings of Jesus that became authoritative gospel material. As a conservative, I had a problem with these implicit assumptions and felt that they were not defended well. However, those matters are minor in light of the book's overall value. It is a wonderful introduction to the subject that would be useful in any minister's library.