Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 December 2009
The gospels continue to captivate the world's attention. Christianity's burgeoning growth, especially in the southern hemisphere, means that they are being read by more people today than ever before. Even in the highly secularized West, millions flock to a blockbuster movie like Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ; and a renewed, broader interest in the gospels has been sparked by the recent flurry of popular Jesus books. The frequently exotic and far-fetched conclusions of these highly publicized books have driven Christians and interested non-Christians alike to go back to the gospels with questions concerning their origin, nature, and teachings. It goes without saying that these foundational documents continue to be critically important for the church and for the doctrine and practice of contemporary Christians.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, scholarly research on the gospels is experiencing a renewal of textual, literary, and theological study. It is true that nothing ever stands still in biblical scholarship, but the study of the gospels in recent decades has made especially significant advances. New methods and approaches abound, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary work and new attention to such areas as sociology, literary or narrative criticism, and the history of influence of texts (Wirkungsgeschichte). The new emphases ought not to be thought of as superseding more traditional historical study of the gospels which necessarily retains its importance, but as supplementing and enriching it.
As our title indicates, the present volume of essays focuses on the written gospel.