The four gospels rightly stand at the head of the New Testament canon. They have, however, routinely been misread or misunderstood. They tell the story of the launch of theocracy – ‘the kingdom of God’ – in terms of the story of Jesus; but they tell that story as (a) the narrative climax of the story of Israel (presupposing the continuous story envisaged by many second-temple Jews in terms of Daniel 9's prophecy of an extended exile), (b) the story of Israel's God returning in glory as always promised, and (c) as the rival to the powerful first-century narrative of Rome, as told by e.g. Livy and Virgil in terms of Rome's history reaching its climax in Augustus, the ‘son of God’, and his empire. The stories meet on the cross, and the purpose of the gospels is then to awaken the readers’ imagination: suppose, they say, that ultimate power looks like this, not like that of Alexander the Great or Augustus. Ironically, much gospel scholarship since the rise of the critical movement has appeared eager to silence this kind of reflection; this has been due to (a) a desire to avoid continuity of narrative, (b) the implicit Epicureanism of modern western culture, with its eagerness to keep God and the world at arm's length, (c) the ‘two kingdoms’ theology implicit in much Lutheranism, and hence much New Testament scholarship, and (d) the triumph in modernism of what has been described by Ian McGilchrist as ‘left-brain’ over ‘right-brain’ thinking. Microscopic analysis has replaced the world of intuition, metaphor, narrative and imagination, leading to readings entirely against the grain of the gospels themselves (though understandable in an academic world where the doctoral process rewards left-brain work). If we are to take the gospels’ narratives seriously, however, we are projected forwards into a fresh vision of what the early church understood as its ‘mission’, focused on the εὐαγγέλιον which, for the first Christians, trumped that of Caesar. Because the early church was no longer marked by the cultural symbols of ethnic Judaism, it was the freshly imagined vision of the identity of the one God that sustained them in this mission, and the ecclesial life it demanded. This was the birth of ‘Christian theology’; and today's task must include the imaginative recapturing of that vision of God's kingdom, as a key element in a refreshed and gospel-grounded missiology.