Jesus in the Gospels and Acts is a 300 page textbook that doesn't read like one. Dr. Scholz sets the stage by describing what life would have been like for Jesus and the Jewish people in His age. Topics discussed in this section included the divided Northern and Southern Kingdoms, the period of rebuilding following their exile, and the constant tension in the Jewish and Roman political landscape. We then dive into the heart of the book by walking through Mark, Matthew, Luke, Acts, and lastly John. They are arranged in this order, as this is the generally accepted chronological order of composition.
For each covered book of the Bible, Dr. Scholz provides key background information, such as authorship, audience, date of composition, and sources used in composition. One of the interesting things I learned from reading this book dealt with the sources and the source Q. I have always heard that Mark was the first Gospel written, so it is only natural that the other Gospels drew from Mark for inspiration. However, there is also belief in the scholarly world that there was another source of inspiration, Q, which, though it does not exist anymore, did contain sayings of Jesus. Many believe that Matthew and Luke drew inspiration from this source as well.
My favorite parts of this book were all the tables, timelines, and review questions. This kind of extra information is just what a textbook needs to keep it from being dry. One of my least favorite parts in this book was the final chapter, "Other Early Christian Gospels." In this section, Dr. Scholz mentions The Protoevangelium of James with two Gnostic works - The Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of Judas. There is a section in this book, which briefly discusses Gnosticism, but mainly talks about how many modern scholars are trying to get the term discarded. I, for one, feel that more care should have been given in discussing Gnostic texts and a warning should have been given that these are in no way recommended reading by the Church. For that reason, I am giving this book 4 out of 5 stars.
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