cover image Written to Be Heard: Recovering the Messages of the Gospels

Written to Be Heard: Recovering the Messages of the Gospels

Paul Borgman and Kelly James Clark. Eerdmans, $30 (328p) ISBN 978-0-8028-7704-8

Positing convincingly that the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke-Acts, and John—were written to be heard, not read, Borgman (David, Saul, and God), professor emeritus at Gordon College, and religion professor Clark (Abraham’s Children) analyze how themes embedded in each text resonate when listened to. The authors contend that the gospel writers constructed their texts as “oral performances” with “hearing cues,” narrative patterns, repetition, rhythm, and other literary constructions that helped original listeners comprehend key ideas, and contemporary readers (lacking this awareness) misinterpret fundamental themes. In extensive detail, the authors examine the narrative devices each writer employs. Employing an “authority-response” pattern throughout his gospel, Mark heightens the cautionary tale about true discipleship. From his opening genealogy (which is usually skimmed while reading) Matthew tells the story of the “next (and last) chapter in Jewish history,” framing his gospel with examples of how Jesus’ life and teaching offer fulfillments of Scripture. Luke and Acts, considered as a two-volume text, offer parallel stories, which can be performed sequentially so that prophesies in Luke are fulfilled in Acts. And in his opening intricate poem, John presents his gospel’s major theme: that believers will have power “to become children of God.” In excavating the gospel narratives’ intricate structure, this perceptive work of scholarship reveals thematic nuances long overlooked by Christian readers. (Mar.)