Cover image for The four witnesses : the rebel, the rabbi, the chronicler, and the mystic
The four witnesses : the rebel, the rabbi, the chronicler, and the mystic
Griffith-Jones, Robin.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Francisco : HarperSanFrancisco, 2000.
Physical Description:
x, 405 pages ; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BS2555.2 .G695 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John are arguably the most important and influential books in Western history. Their accounts of Jesus do not simply add up to "The Greatest Story Ever Told," but "The Four Greatest Stories Ever Told." Why do they present such strikingly different versions of the same events? As the great filmmaker Akira Kirosawa demonstrated in his epic movie Rashomon, different witnesses can quite honestly remember the same event in very different ways. Now Oxford New Testament scholar Robin Griffith-Jones shows how the four gospels testify authentically yet very distinctly to Jesus' life, death, and message.

Jesus himself asked, 'Who do you say I am?' If his question has ever intrigued you--if it has ever just caught your imagination--then this book has been written for you.

In The Four Witnesses, Robin Griffith-Jones brings the stories of Jesus to life for the contemporary reader as he revives the original power and intent of the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John as individual witnesses. He presents a lively discussion of how and why each of the four gospels was written, considering the substance and style of the testimony itself as well as the unique context of each story. Rather than entering into the current historical Jesus debates, he offers a fresh reading of the texts with new questions in mind, the same questions, often highly personal, that each Gospel writer sought to address in his own work. For them, as for us, Jesus presented a enigmatic, challenging figure. By seeking insight into the mystery of his life and work, they hoped to find a new way to see the world and to understand our relationship with God.

"Who do you say I am?" Each gospel offers its own answer to Jesus' question, influenced by the context of its writing and the personality of its writer. By examining the distinct light shed by each gospel writer on Jesus' life, work, and death, readers can discover which perspective speaks most clearly to their own needs, hopes, and fears, and decide how to respond to Jesus' challenge. Most importantly, they can encounter in all four gospels taken together what one alone could not provide: a remarkably full and compelling presentation of Jesus and his powerful message.

Author Notes

Robin Griffith-Jones served as chaplain and taught New Testament for several years at Lincoln College, Oxford University. He was recently named Master of the Temple Church in London.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Griffith-Jones, an Anglican priest who is a chaplain and lecturer in New Testament Studies at Oxford University, makes a rather forgettable entr‚e into the already-saturated world of Jesus studies. The book begins with the tired observation that the Gospels offer not one, but four portraits of Jesus, and goes downhill from there. Griffith-Jones does little more than trot out the most basic findings of biblical scholarship: Mark was probably the first gospel to be written, while Matthew draws on Jewish traditions, sagely attempting to demonstrate that Jesus fulfilled Jewish prophecy. Matthew also stresses how similar Jesus is to Moses, depicting Jesus' brief asylum in Egypt as an echo of the Exodus story and highlighting the Sermon on the Mount's similarities to the revelation of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Luke's Jesus is revolutionary, calling for a new order of compassion for the poor, for women and for other downtrodden folk; Griffith-Jones writes that "there is mercy at work in Luke's Jesus... by which our ordinary categories of rich and poor" are rendered meaningless. John is the most poetic and mystical writer, emphasizing more than the other evangelists the rebirth and transformation of individuals who knew Jesus. To justify yet another book on the historical Jesus aimed at the general reader, an author must offer either original insights or stylistic flair. Griffith-Jones does neither; skip his book. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

At a time when most books on the Gospels are fixated on the earlier pieces or the documents that comprise them, Griffith-Jones, master of the Temple Church in London, focuses on the message of their complete texts. He takes some positions many scholars would disagree with (e.g., Mark's reliance on Peter) but is careful to inform the reader of each point under debate. He sees the diversity of the four views of Jesus in the Gospels as something to be valued rather than considered a problem. To help understand their messages, he depicts the four early churches the Gospels were written to, laying out the problems each church faced and how the Gospels helped them. For instance, the Gospel of Mark was an aid to Christians facing persecution in Rome, while Luke's Jesus brought compassion to poor Gentiles. Griffith-Jones acknowledges that each Gospel was composed with the belief in the resurrection, and he uses some of Paul's writings and the Book of Revelation to interpret those themes in the Gospels that address unveiling, or revelation in Jesus. Though the book includes scholarly material, lay readers will understand it. Recommended for its refreshingly different content and perspective on the Gospels.--David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Prefacep. ix
1. The Four Greatest Stories Ever Toldp. 3
2. Joy of Man's Desiringp. 21
Book I Mark's Story
Introduction to Markp. 45
3. Storm Warningp. 49
4. Composing the Storyp. 68
From Mark to Matthewp. 90
Book II Matthew's Story
Introduction to Matthewp. 99
5. The Promised Land?p. 103
6. The Old Israel and the Newp. 140
From Matthew to Lukep. 177
Book III Luke's Story
Introduction to Lukep. 189
7. The Birth of the Churchp. 191
8. The Old Order and the Newp. 229
From Luke to Johnp. 267
Book IV John's Story
Introduction to Johnp. 281
9. From the Beginning to the Endp. 285
10. The Trialp. 317
11. Dark Splendorp. 342
"It Is Completed"p. 378
12. The Last Actp. 383