Mark Strauss, Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary, San Diego, has done the academic and lay communities a service. Strauss has written a gem of a book called Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels (Zondervan, 2007). If one is looking for a textbook on this subject, the buck stops here!
The volume is 525 pages long plus a glossary and indexes that brings the total page count to 541. The book is divided into four main sections: 1) An Introduction to the Four Gospels (23-67); 2) The Setting of the Gospels (93-149); 3) The Four Gospels (171-297); 4) The Historical Jesus (347-511). From an aesthetic point, you will not find a more handsome volume. Color photographs, charts, sidebars & maps fill nearly every page.
What is most impressive about this volume though is the sheer comprehensiveness. All angles are covered, from definitions of different methodological practices in Gospel research and Historical Jesus research, overviews of the major players from past to present (Bultmann, Schweitzer, Wright, Meier, etc.), to investigating each gospel in its relationship to the other, as well as its own unique contribution.
Moreover, each chapter concludes with a chapter summary, key terms, discussion and study questions, and a “digging deeper” section that is choc a bloc full of bibliography. This brief overview does not do justice to the work itself. Strauss is to be commended for a brilliant piece of work. I cannot imagine a better introduction to Jesus and the Gospels.