A Review of “The Gospel according to Jesus” -- By: Darrell L. Bock

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 146:581 (Jan 1989)
Article: A Review of “The Gospel according to Jesus”
Author: Darrell L. Bock


A Review of “The Gospel according to Jesus”

Darrell L. Bock

Associate Professor of New Testament Studies
Dallas Theological Seminary

The gospel is a precious truth. So any book on the topic is important, especially when the author is a minister of the stature and impact of John F. MacArthur, Jr.1 Many evangelicals, including the present author, have benefited greatly from his ministry of the Word and from his writings. MacArthur’s book on the gospel is being widely read and is having significant influence. In view of the issues the book raises and the importance of the topic, the book needs a careful review.2

This review has four goals. First, it is imperative to discuss an element in MacArthur’s presentation that makes his book subject to easy misunderstanding. By clarifying this element of style and the nature of the misunderstanding, the way is cleared for the second goal, which is the presentation and evaluation of his position on the gospel. This second goal is accomplished by viewing MacArthur’s thesis and then looking at areas of agreement and disagreement with the book. This reviewer sees two major areas of significant disagreement with MacArthur’s approach, while noting a number of points of agreement. The disagreements are of sufficient weight, however, to suggest that MacArthur has not convinced this reviewer that he has produced an adequate theological synthesis of the issue.

A third goal is to suggest how the gospel should be handled, avoiding what the reviewer regards as potential extremes in the models presented in MacArthur’s book, both the one he actually defends (not the more radical one some see him defending) and the one he attacks. As such, the review attempts to find a via media between the two options MacArthur offers. In pursuing this and the previous goals, observations are made about some individuals cited by MacArthur, who have not been understood properly in their historical context or whose views have not been properly represented. The two major individuals are Lewis Sperry Chafer and Zane C. Hodges, though others too have not been cited in a way that accurately reflects their views. These observations point out that the position MacArthur rejects is not as radical as it sometimes appears within the book, though some of MacArthur’s concerns and criticisms still remain intact, even after such qualifications.

The fourth goal is to make a plea. The tone of the discussion of this key issue has not been exemplary on either side. Closing comments will address this issue, so that this important discussion can continue wi...

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