A. T. Ross’ review of Peter Leithart’s recent book, The Four: A Survey of the Gospels. From www.goodreads.com
A wonderful follow-up book to Leithart’s A House For My Name, this one focusing on the gospels. I hope he plans to do a third to complete the set, focusing on a survey of the entire the New Testament as the completion of God’s house.
That said, this book was a great study on the gospels, focusing on the complementary aspects of them, showing the continuity and richness of the theology contained in them. With deft and able skills, Leithart deflects the common assumptions about Jesus. His section on Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount was particularly interesting. His chapter on Luke’s gospel was especially good, showing how Luke and Acts are both structured identically, revealing that, for Luke, the story of Christ as head (Gospel of Luke) becomes the story of Christ the whole body, the Church (the Acts of the Apostles).
One of the best and most important sections in the book is Leithart’s discussion of the Q document, the supposed intermediate gospel relied upon by Matthew and Luke. Most scholars, on the basis of the phantom Q document, argue that Mark was written first, then Matthew and Luke, who copied from Mark and Q. The only problem is that there is no such document as Q, and as Leithart points out, the Q gospel is made up mostly of the prejudices of the scholars who imagined it. As an alternative theory, Leithart shows how the theology of the Gospels answer the questions of the last. So Matthew’s gospel raises questions that Mark answers, and Luke answers the questions of Mark, and John completes the picture. Thus, he shows that supposing a missing Q document is completely unnecessary, and actually destroys the theological continuity of the four as they stand. Bold, and refreshing. Highly recommended, especially by such a noted ecumenical scholar.