Mark L. Strauss, Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007. 559 pp.
Bible college and seminary students need to learn many things, but near the top of that list is a good understanding of Jesus and the Gospels. Although there are many books that fall under that category, one of the best books in textbook form is Mark L. Strauss’ Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels.
The book is divided into four sections. The first section is the introduction to the four Gospels. In this section, Strauss explains what the Gospels are, their origin and nature through historical-critical methods and how to read and hear the Gospels through literary-critical methods. The second section deals with the historical, religious and social/cultural setting of the Gospels. The third section looks at each of the four Gospels. Strauss describes the Gospels in this way: Mark: The Gospel of the Suffering Son of God, Matthew: The Gospel of the Messiah, Luke: The Gospel of the Saviour for All People and John: The Gospel of the Son Who Reveals the Father. The fourth section is on the historical Jesus. Strauss looks at such issues as searching for the real Jesus, the historical reliability of the Gospels, the contours and chronology of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus’ birth and childhood, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the message of Jesus, the miracles of Jesus, the messianic words and actions of Jesus, the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus.
The book is very comprehensive in looking at the relevant issues concerning Jesus and the Gospels. The author writes from an evangelical perspective and so this resource is appropriate for schools and students of that background. At the same time, Strauss does wrestle with critical issues and students are able to encounter some of the theories outside of the evangelical world.
The book is nicely laid out with colourful pictures and sidebars to give added detail about people or places mentioned in the main text. The topics are presented in a logical sequence and the writing is clear and concise. Each chapter ends with discussion questions and further reading. As with many of Zondervan’s textbooks, online textbookplus resources are available for instructors.
I highly recommend Four Portraits, One Jesus as an excellent textbook for any introductory courses on Jesus or the Gospels. This book will give students all they need to build a solid foundation. This is the textbook that I have been looking for.