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Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  506 ratings  ·  64 reviews
This textbook on how to read the Gospels well can stand on its own as a guide to reading this New Testament genre as Scripture. It is also ideally suited to serve as a supplemental text to more conventional textbooks that discuss each Gospel systematically. Most textbooks tend to introduce students to historical-critical concerns but may be less adequate for showing how th ...more
Paperback, 268 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by Baker Academic (first published July 1st 2012)
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Kirk Miller
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. Pennington not only serves up good, thoughtful, precise, and insightful scholarship and guidance on reading the Gospels well, but he does so in an incredibly engaging, enjoyable, and understandable manner. I highly recommend this book for any serious student and/or teacher of the Bible wanting to increase his or her reading of, not only the gospels, but all Biblical narrative.
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Our canonical Gospels are the theological, historical, and aretological (virtue-forming) biographical narratives that retell the story and proclaim the significance of Jesus Christ, Who through the power of the Spirit is the Restorer of God’s Reign.”

This is the author’s definition of the Gospels. Scholarly, yet very pastoral. He def stirs you to want to read the gospels more frequently, seeing their vital significance to our understanding of theology. Strongly recommend this resource to gain a
Brian Collins
Oct 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Pennington provides an introduction to the Gospels from the perspective of an evangelical participant in the theological interpretation of Scripture "movement." Pennington's work reflects both the strengths and weaknesses of a TIS approach.

Strong points in the book in include:
○ Pennington's examination of what the Gospels are (including a survey of how the word "gospel" is used in the Gospels, Gospel as a genre, the relation of Gospel to bioi, and the purposes for which the Gospels were writ
Jon Pentecost
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A useful book in addressing how we read and interpret the gospels. Full of useful tools for understanding narrative, for discerning theological and pastoral content within a narrative, and for applying the gospels to the Christian life.

Read this for the second time while preaching through Luke, and I was increasingly appreciative of his frustration with modern scholarship on the gospels, which is overly (sometimes exclusively) focused on answering questions of historicity and source criticism, t
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
December 9, 2014. Edit: I just read for a second time. Upgraded the rating to 5 stars because of the subsequent impact this book has had on me since first reading.

First review: December 7, 2012

For its size, this book is deceivingly dense! Purchased after seeing lots of really fascinating dialogue happening on the internets in lieu of some arguments Dr. P proposed (e.g. the chapter on "canon within a canon"). I quickly realized that this was an introduction, though not at an introductory reading
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really helpful. "Our canonical Gospels are theological, historical, and arteological (virtue-forming) biographical narratives that retell the story and proclaim the significance of Jesus Christ, who through the power of the Spirit​ is the Restorer of God's reign." (Page 35)

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Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Pennington’s book is divided into three parts: “Clearing Ground, Digging Deep, and Laying a Good Foundation,” “Building the House through Wise Reading,” and “Living in the Gospels House.” The first part, by far the longest, discusses gospel studies on a general hermeneutical level as well as engaging with the current conversation in academia. Pennington’s communication of the current state of gospel studies is cogent and coherent, especially his discussion of history-as-theology and theology-as- ...more
Matt Pitts
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
I was intrigued when I heard about this book, but was unfamiliar with Dr. Pennington and therefore uncertain about the book. But when I heard that he studied under Richard Bauckham and teaches at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (both things that commended him to me) I knew I wanted to read it. And I'm so glad I did.

Dr. Pennington doesn't just want you to read the Gospels, he wants you to be transformed by them. He aims to help us think rightly about what the Gospels are, how to interpret a
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have read literally hundreds of books on theology, ministry, and biblical studies. If I had to choose just one book as the single most helpful, influential, and stand out book I've ever read on issues dealing with Scripture, this is the book I would choose. I've read it twice, taking extensive notes each time. I've given it away to a friend and bought another copy. I even chose this book to write a review for my masters program at Edinburgh. This book is truly a gift to the interpreter of the ...more
Rik Hinz
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An indispensable introduction to the Gospels and overview of surrounding issues of composition, categorization, interpretation, and application of the Gospel narratives. The crux of the argument of the book is to encourage readers to recognize the prominence the Gospels deserve in the life of the church and her individual members. The greatest insights offered to me were a specific method of Gospel reading that leads to and encourages the real-life application of the stories as well as a compell ...more
The marks of a good book: it's well-written, thought-provoking, and a conversation-starter long after you finish the last page.

While I'm still wrestling through several issues, I have been challenged and encouraged to look at the Gospels anew and, especially, to approach them with a posture of humility and a desire for Christlikeness — in short, then, to read the Gospels wisely.
Glenn Wishnew III
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
one of the best books of Biblical Scholarship I’ve read. Barth said that Bonhoeffer’s dissertation was a ‘theological miracle’ because it came out of Berlin. If you’ll allow me a little lattitude and a lot of hyperbole, Pennington’s work here is a ‘literary miracle’ coming out of Southern Seminary.
Becky Pliego
Part 1 was my favorite.
Caleb Spindler
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book has easily been the highlight book of my entire seminary career. I have and will continue to encourage all of my seminary and pastor friends to not simply read this book but to meditate on it.

Pennington's focus is that readers of Holy Scripture would not simply be hearers but doers as well. He rightly begins with a clear definition of the gospel message that is not reduced to the "soterian gospel" as McKnight calls it, but rather that is focused on the meta-narrative of scripture, focu
Nathaniel Martin
Nov 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I went into this one with skepticism and came out with delight. It was an exhausting process because Pennington challenged many of the presuppositions I had concerning hermeneutics. Pennington is relentlessly convincing. I was persuaded by much of what he said which requires a change in my own thinking. The most valuable aspect of the book is no doubt the "virtue formation" understanding of the purpose of the gospels.
Many will, of course, have questions about Pennington's definition of the gospe
Todd Stone
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
this book is super dense, and at times is pretty academic. but for someone who has struggled with knowing how to Read the Gospels, this book was a spectacular breath of fresh air.

for anyone who wants to seriously engage with the Gospels, I'd highly recommend it.
Dane Rich
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I thought this was a really great book, worth the time to read. The content and style will probably not appeal to most general readers, as it delves into issues that are more of a general concern to the academy. That being said, the content is definitely needed and important for every reader, so if you feel inclined it is definitely worth the read. Extensive discussion on topics such as the history of interpretation of the gospels, historiography, authorial intent, meaning, narrative analysis, a ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Jonathan Pennington is a kindred spirit, in that he has a passion for helping people achieve right understanding of the Word of God. Unlike me, he has a brilliant intellect and reams of research he has worked through to present the historic way to understand the gospels that has been neglected in the modernist approach.

The gospels are central to understanding the Scriptures, and, thus, understanding them is a critical component of our faith. Moving from a "low church" tradition to a
Rex Blackburn
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good introduction to studying the Gospels. A lot of strengths and good takeaways, particularly about the preeminence of the reader's posture and response. Also, I enjoyed the last chapter, where Pennington makes his case for the gospels as the center of the whole Bible, a "canon within the canon," in a sense.

One frustrating thing about the book is that Pennington introduces a series of methods/lenses/frameworks for reading and interpreting the Gospels, and after each one, he repeats "But, at the
Pig Rieke
Aug 02, 2020 rated it liked it
A significant amount of the material is great in this book in terms of interacting with questions like how do we understand what the gospels are, the relationship between history and theology in the scriptures, cultural setting and Divine inspiration, ect. In answering these questions, Dr. Pennington shows an approach that is both conscious of theological trends and soundly orthodox. In the final analysis, Dr. Pennington defends the orthodox and biblical conclusion that the gospels (and scriptur ...more
Apr 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: seminary-reading
Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction

I'm currently in Dr. Pennington's New Testament survey course at SBTS and read Reading the Gospels Wisely as part of his course. It's excellent. The book covers the history of the Gospels, who they've traditionally been interpreted, and how narrative analysis leads to a wiser reading of the Gospels. However, my biggest takeaway is viewing the Gospels as central to the Bible. Dr. Pennington's reverence and respect for the central
Stephen Drew
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I deeply enjoyed Reading the Gospels wisely, more than any other reason because for me Pennington accomplished his purpose in writing the book, to stoke a greater affection for the gospels in my heart and mind. He argues persuasively that the gospels have become subjected to the epistles in evangelical teaching and that we need to return to a historical approach of the gospels being foundational for Christian teaching and sharing of the Gospel message.

I also deeply resonated with his address of
Matthew Hilbert
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book on how to read and apply the gospels well. Pennington gives a great discussion on the genre of the gospels and how to best understand them in light of that genre. He also gives great pointers on how to interpret, teach and preach the gospels to others. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in studying the gospels, and particularly those planning to teach or preach from those books
Caleb Batchelor
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Like most books, Reading the Gospels Wisely requires a filter, and I do not agree with everything that Pennington avers. His definition of meaning raises questions. However, the majority of the book is fantastic! His narrative analysis is very helpful. Pennington illustrates well how the Gospel writers have a theological purpose in their accounts, and he provides practical steps to identify those doctrinal emphases. Definitely recommend!
Shelby J Holloway
May 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. I was encouraged to consider the Gospels more highly and was reminded about why we need the Gospels and what they provide us. Everything points to Jesus and in the Gospels we can an up front encounter with Jesus.

Dr. Pennington is brilliant and you will definitely learn a lot in this book. There were a few words that I had to look up the meaning of!
Matt Crawford
May 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
The title is pretty cut and dry. BUt it is more than a step by step of the Gospel narrative. Yet, he does give a method for how to do it. HIs thesis is to ignite interest and the Gospels. That is a good thing because everything he mentions made me wish he went further in depth. I guess I wanted a longer volume. There are also noticeable parts that he neglects. Although this is because he is not about reading particular sections but about reading the 4 Gospels as a harmony of proclamation.
It's good, not great, but his argument about the gospels (or the fourfold gospel) being the "keystone" of an explicitly "Christian" reading of Scripture is probably the strongest point. His work on methods for reading the gospel aren't quite helpful enough—too brief and also weakened by an immediately preceding argument about the failure of "method" in hermeneutics. ...more
Matthew Bandy
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fantastic textbook, clear insight, but just a bit wordy. Overall would highly recommend
Dan Mason
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Solid content, albeit a bit disorganized. For those looking for a readable guide to understanding and reading the gospels, this is a great place to start.
Shane Williamson
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Life changing read! Pennington argues that the Gospels should be the hermeneutical key to interpreting all of Scripture. My love for the Gospels grew tremendously with this book. A must read.
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Jonathan T. Pennington (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is associate professor of New Testament interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew and has published a number of tools for learning biblical languages, including New Testament Greek Vocabulary and Old Testament Hebrew Vocabulary.

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10 likes · 2 comments
“To preach that Jesus is the true King over all kings, the only true Son of God, and therefore the only one worthy of worship is not merely a personal conviction of individual piety but is necessarily a public, political, and polemical proclamation.” 2 likes
“Isaiah 40–66 is of the utmost importance for the Gospels’ self-understanding and proclamation. Sprinkled throughout all the Gospels, but especially Matthew and Luke, are direct quotations, strong allusions, and subtle echoes from Isaiah. We can say without overstatement that the eschatological vision of Isaiah 40–66 serves as the primary subtext and framing for the Gospels’ witness.[41] This is not a new insight, as is witnessed by the centrality of Isaiah in Christian interpretation, in everything from homily and commentary to Handel’s famous oratorio Messiah, which begins with the tenor aria “Comfort, O Comfort my People” (from Isa. 40:1).” 1 likes
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