If you can imagine a kind-hearted teacher reading a passage of the Bible to you and then stopping to comment on what was just read—to place the scene in historical context, for example—then you have a decent idea of what you’ll find in Gospels One. Here, Ray Bumgardner presents the New Testament’s first four books —Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—in their entirety, but restructures them in an effort to create a cohesive and linear narrative of the life of Jesus. Along the way, he provides running observations on such topics as the syntax, geography, history, politics, and faith in the stories and the teachings of these evangelists.
The author’s commentary is clear and his insights are informative and easy to understand. Take, for instance, the story of The Widow’s Mites (or “coins”) in which an old woman donates the little money she has to the Temple treasury. Bumgardner explains that the original Greek word for mites is “lepta,” which was one of the smallest known coins used in the Hellenistic world at the time. The information helps to stress just how poor the woman was and how great was her sacrifice.
It’s small observations like this that demonstrate the author’s love of his material, but as Bumgardner mentions in his author’s note, Gospels One is not a work of scholarship; he admits to not citing many of his sources because the material was never supposed to become a book, but rather “a series of lessons for a Bible study”.
Although Gospels One lacks the authority some readers might require, its interwoven narrative of essentially four different points of view (each Gospel writer wrote during a different time period and for a different audience) presents an interesting experiment. Bible experts will have to argue over its accuracy, but those lay readers looking for a one-stop shopping experience, so to speak, might find much of interest here.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.