Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006). 508 pp. + indices.

Bauckham begins his study by introducing what is to me the key contribution his work makes: the category of eyewitnesses. He points out that the way a lot of form critics of the NT operate it is as if they assume that the disciples (or eyewitnesses) first told the Gospel story and then went on permanent retreat, never to be heard from again. The argument that the Gospels are in the majority constructions of later Christianity is nonsensical in light of the fact that “The gospels were written within living memory of the events they recount” (7). Furthermore, he points out that contrary to our modern view of history, in the ancient world the most reliable witnesses to an event were those that were not only present at the event, but were intimately involved in the event which allowed them “to understand and interpret the significance of what [they] had seen” (9). In this regard, Bauckham notes, “the Gospels are much closer to the methods and aims of ancient historiography than they are to typical modern historiography” (11) but they must be understood as historiography in some form.

He next turns to a discussion of Papias (who we know only through citations in Eusebius). He will return to examine in detail Papias’ view of the Gospels in chs. 9 and 16. For his purposes here, he establishes the importance of eyewitness testimony in that it was considered “the best practice of historians” (27) to be most reliant upon eyewitness testimony in constructing a history.

The next several chapters (chs. 3-5) (more…)