Critics find new book on Gospels to be "a gem"

"Getting the Gospels: Understanding the New Testament Accounts of Jesus' Life," a new book by theology professor Steven L. Bridge of Saint Joseph's College, has been called "a gem of accessible biblical scholarship" by Publishers Weekly. The book was recently featured as a starred review in the prestigious publishing journal, which highlighted "its short but packed chapters, accessible writing style and allusions to pop culture."

In the book, Dr. Bridge argues that to interpret the Gospels accurately, one must understand the perspectives of the first-century biblical writers and their intended audiences. Divorced from such historical contexts, modern readers can easily misconstrue the meaning of certain passages, he says. To make that point, Bridge presents 12 case studies that draw from each of the four Gospels and span the continuum of Jesus' life.

In the chapter devoted to Jesus' birth, Bridge compares two modern holiday classics: "A Christmas Carol" and "It's a Wonderful Life." He claims that although both stories capture the "true meaning" of Christmas, their central characters embody it in nearly opposite ways. (Scrooge must change his life; Bailey must keep his the same.) Bridge applies that analogy to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Although both evangelists record versions of the nativity, they make nearly opposite claims about who Jesus is and why he has come. (For Matthew, the birth is a dramatic, political event; for Luke, it is humble and unassuming.)

Library Journal, considered the "bible" of the library world, commended Bridge's work as "a readable and often amusing study void of technical jargon" and recommended it for public and undergraduate libraries alike.

James Resseguie, professor at Winebrenner Theological Seminary, says the book "restores the richness and vitality of the Gospel stories to their original beauty." He adds, "Hard sayings of Jesus are made understandable, difficult actions clarified and puzzling accounts resolved. Bridge's reading of the Gospels is astute and engaging."

The paperback is available through Hendrickson Publishers of Peabody, Mass., local bookstores and several Web sites, including christianbooks.com and dovebook.com.

December 13, 2004 Contact: Charmaine Daniels at (207) 893-7723 or e-mail cdaniels@sjcme.edu