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).

thefour-cvrOne 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.

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2 Responses to “Q&A”

  • Dave Says:

    I’ve always wondered about Q. It seemed to me more likely that the gospels were similar at points because they were written by witnesses to the same events… Nice to see someone taking seriously that possibility. I think it was somewhere in something James Jordan wrote (or was it you?) that argued for Mathew being the first written quite soon after the first events of Acts. The theory made sense to me, but you don’t hear much about that possibility from others. Are you aware of that viewpoint (assuming it was Jordan’s), and if so, is it similar to what Peter Leithart has to say?

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Hi Dave

    Yes, Jordan and Leithart are in collusion. Jordan wrote about this years ago, and it plugs in with Leithart’s structural analysis. As you say, it’s good to question such theories — especially when they tend to weaken the testimony.