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What the Gospels Meant

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  254 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Garry Wills interprets the four Gospels Garry Willsâ?s recent New York Times bestselling books What Jesus Meant and What Paul Meant we
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published February 14th 2008 by Viking Adult
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Dec 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, theology
Discussion of the similarities and discrepancies in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

I enjoyed Wills's translations, which he did not prettify in the way that many translators do--he kept the sometimes awkward constructions and tense shifts that others smooth out. I especially liked that he translates "the valley of the shadow of death" as simply "the breaking point."

I was always taught that, in the book of John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved" referred to John himself, who was too mod
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
This is a quick read about a difficult and broad subject. Wills is a prolific writer, covering subjects as diverse as Lincoln, the Catholic Church and theology. Most of what Wills has to say about Jesus and the Gospels he gleaned from the theologian Raymond Brown, therefore feels condensed and watered down. Still it is a good starting point to understanding the focus of each gospel, but I felt like wanted to know more. I guess I have to read more Brown for myself.
Jan 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Some useful insights into the Gospels as a whole and individually. Also, reinforces the idea of the importance of translation and context in understanding of the Gospels.
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: religious-misc
I learned quite a bit in this one, but there were some pieces of misinformation that I really disliked. I audiobooked it, so maybe the author misread? There's one part where he's talking about women in the Old Testament, their lineage connection with Jesus, and how they're not reputable characters. He mentions Ruth, and mistakenly identifies her as helping with the conquest of Jericho instead of Rahab. ?? That really threw me for a loop. I listened to it a couple more times to be sure he said wh ...more
Craig Barner
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it
In What the Gospels Meant, biblical scholar Garry Wills searches for the core ideas of each of the four Gospels. He takes a look at the similarities and differences among them and provides key historical perspective. It's a great work because Wills is accessible to the layman, due in part to his clear and concise writing, but his penetrating analyses and deep understanding of the Bible would challenge the Gospel specialist, too. Well worth reading, What the Gospels Meant should deepen the reader ...more
Lee Razer
Sep 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Easy-reading look at how each of the 4 canonical gospels was put together and why they differ in emphasis. I did learn a few things, like how the writer of Matthew depended on a mistranslation of Isaiah from Hebrew into Greek in his creation of the virgin birth story, and how a certain Greek genitive plural form means both "thorns", which didn't grow around Jerusalem, and "acanthus", a soft-leaved plant which did. So much depends on translations.

Along with this book I also read the canonical go
Jul 12, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting compare and contrast for the four gospels. This includes faults by the writers of those four epistles: inconsistencies, order of chronology, author identification, and issues with language such as consistency of style and grammar. The analysis of content in general is followed by individual book analysis: Mark, Matthew, Luke and the beloved John.

Beware of the difficult words: for me to get more than one new word per sentence makes for dismissal of them, or in other words: light read
Joel Wentz
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not quite as good as "What Jesus Meant," but certainly stronger than "What Paul Meant," Wills provides a thoroughly-readable overview of the 4 gospels. He clearly respects the source material immensely, and discusses his own faith with a sharp historical, academic edge, which is something I love to find in theological writing. As a believer myself, I found his portrayals of the gospel stories very compelling, and I was drawn into the differences between the evangelists. I found myself reflecting ...more
Jul 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I don't read much religious commentary, but I needed a little something while waiting for books on hold to arrive and saw this volume, and Wills is a good, respected historian (though he shifted from early American history to religious history). I enjoyed it and learned quite a bit; questioned some of my beliefs (hardly solidly grounded in the first place). I was surprised by how much I knew though, as there was very little mentioned (in the way of the stories and such) that I had not heard. I g ...more
marcus miller
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable and thought provoking review of the four gospels in the New Testament. Wills explains the differing motives and emphases for writing and also explores some of the differences between the four books. For those who claim to take their Bible "literally" Wills approach may be irritating or maybe even heretical. On the other hand, if you are interested in some differing ways people look at the Gospels, and acknowledge the differences and similarities in the Gospels, Wills provides a useful ...more
Jeanne Young
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essential to Understanding the Gospels

I found myself pondering Jesus's messages and meaning while doing mundane tasks and as I fell asleep and woke up. The book helped me to be among the disciples as they pondered and meditated on Jesus's mission. The author uses great thinkers as references. His own translations of key passages from the Greek gave me fresh perspective on what I know in the King James verses. I underlined much and will return again in my study to this book.
Dec 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Pretty good though I get the feeling that it is simply a redaction of Raymond Brown's which since he quotes it so often. I'd also like to see more acknowledgment over areas of debate, such as, where the community of Mark was located- Wills takes the position it was in Syria though the scholarly majority would place him in Rome. But in terms of outlining basic features of the gospels that set them apart this does a good overview.
Gordon Wilson
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a great book for someone curious about the New Testament. I have always wondered about how the Bible was influenced over time. This series by Garry Wills really answers a lot of my questions. I would recommend it to anyone curious about the gospels and how they came to be. The author has done a fantastic job in putting together the work of many historians and scholars into any easy to read and understand book. I really enjoyed it.
Holly Quinn
Jan 02, 2015 rated it liked it
More than other things this book gave me a sense of the importance of Raymond Brown in modern Catholic theological thinking. Very concise, well written and documented, with many Gospel examples clearly elucidated. There are more in the What the ______ Meant series written by Brown but I doubt I'll read them though I confidently recommend them to people this sort of writing appeals to.
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
In keeping with the other theological books by Wills: clear, concise, well reasoned, and authoritative without being authoritarian. Wills makes clear the radicalism of what Jesus preached. He also discusses the differences between the Gospels -- their whys and wherefores -- with each offering a different facet, each offering a different perspective, and together a more complete narrative.
Apr 28, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really don't know how to rate this book as I'm still pretty "new" to biblical scholarship though I did notice that it was very Catholic leaning. I really don't know how to rate this book, but I will give it the default 2 stars because I didn't hate it, but for the most part I have to keep studying.
Wil Roese
For centuries Mathew was thought to be the first Gospel but now Mark is thought to be the first. Mathew and Luke used Mark and a common source called Q for their Gospels. The Gospels show Christ from different perspectives. John focuses on the divinity, Mark on the suffering and Mathew on the teachings.
Sharon Bender
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian
This description of the Gospels seemed honest, open, and informative. I was able to use its accounting to work through my own faith and Christianity as an individual. I found it refreshing and most helpful to be trusted with this kind of view. I will be sure to consult the writings of Raymond E. Brown, which Wills consistently praised and heavily relied upon for this book.
Kathy  Petersen
What the Gospels Meant delivers just what its title promises ... at least the Gospels according to Gary Wills, and that's good enough for me. I suppose a passing acquaintance with the New Testament is helpful, as Wills presupposes some familiarity. I doubt that a reader without knowledge of the Gospels would be particularly interested anyway.
Jun 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Being trained in the seminary, Willis does his own translations of select gospel passages and writes about the historical background and intended audience for each of the gospels, which were written 30-70 years after Christ's life.
J. Ewbank
Jul 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-good-read, religion
This was a good, short book, but a good read. The book brims with scholarship but it is extremely readable and well handled.

I enjoyed reading it and will keep it.

J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the 'Isms'"
Apr 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Interesting comparison and contrast of the 4 gospels. Heard as book on tape so I was not able to digest comments and think more about the different topics. Would probably be useful listening to it again.
Audrey Babkirk Wellons
Jul 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: students of the bible
Shelves: religion
A good book to read to get a sense of the tone of each of the gospels and how they differ from one another thematically.
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Not recommended. A distortion of the Gospels in my opinion.
Sabrine Faragallah
Jun 25, 2011 rated it liked it
The book was slightly academic for my taste, I was looking for something with more depth into the spiritual meaning of the gospels.
Nov 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wills' reliance on the work of Raymond Brown left me elongated that I wish I'd read Brown's books instead. I found this work a bit shallow and the author's style ratherpendantic. Disappointing.
rated it really liked it
May 08, 2014
Paul Carlisle
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Sep 08, 2015
Charles Kirkwood
rated it it was amazing
Apr 01, 2013
Brian Kendall
rated it it was amazing
Nov 28, 2012
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Garry Wills is an author and historian, and a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books. In 1993, he won a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for his book Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, which describes the background and effect of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863.

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