Thursday, October 14, 2004

Lament over a new Gospel harmony

On Deinde, Danny Zacharias offers a lament on a new book that harmonises the Gospels (a book also mentioned to me by Jim West, who also blogs it):

A new gospel harmony . . . a lament
Why is it that it is this type of work which receives media attention and will be carried in the pop.christian bookstores? The publisher pushes the Gospel of the Four as if this were the first concerted attempt to create a synopsis of the gospel, despite the excellent published resources and online resources as well . . . . I don't pretend to have any answers, and i know that everyone author has a right to their opinions, but how can the best in biblical scholarship penetrate the pop.christian bookstores?
Danny's points and questions are helpful. One comment: it is all the more important for scholars to look to communicate with that wider public, to communicate via books, the internet, the media, or those outside of universities and seminaries will go to less reputable sources that are willing -- and waiting -- to fill any gap. But a second comment too: I am much less concerned than Danny here. As far as I can tell, the work in question is privately published (what some more disparagingly might call vanity publishing), and the "press release" in question is presumably written by the author; it is disseminated via eMediaWire, which is a free press release service that anyone can use. It is a notorious difficulty to get privately published books into mainstream bookshops.


Jim said...

Mark, we often hear of "vanity publications" and though such are often derided may I remind you and others that paying for one's work to be published was how things worked for generations. Erasmus had to pay to have his stuff published, as did Luther, Zwingli, and even more recently, Kierkegaard! If they were publishing today, they would be derided by the intellectual eggheads who think genuine truth is only communicated by being paid before a single copy sells. We too often make the mistake of believing that value resides in the name under which a book is published. That is, of course, rubbish. Truth is not determined by having "E.J. Brill" on one's dustjacket. Besides, we all know that if your name is on a Brill book, only libraries will have the money to afford it.

Anonymous said...

Lament over a lamentI don't really understand this harmony bashing by theologians. I personally love reading a good harmony. And if the historical Jesus was a real human being it would be only natural to harmonize the stories about him. This attitude is as old as Tatian!
I would love to see a harmony done by theologians with a large appendix discussing all the many major problems. You really learn a lot by analyzing and discussing this.
I think scholars take the easy way out by just dismiss this as unscholarly or amateurish.
Well, just MHO.

PS: Publishing and promotion is a completely other matter of course.

Wieland Willker

Whit said...

I think that is why Goodacre likes to study Jesus movies. Most movies wind up blendind or harmonizing Gospel accounts to some degree. What is left in or out tells a great deal about the author and his or her particular bias or perspective. It give insight into how the Gospels we have might have developed.

Harmonies are a problem for many (ordinary readers), because they do not realize that they (i.e., the harmonies) are a harmonizing of originally diverse material. It becomes easy to believe that the individual Gospel accounts present a single witness. The richness of the four-fold (or more) tradition can be lost, as well as what they can teach us about the different ways in which the good news was understood and interpreted.