The Fourfold Gospel Commentary

Gregory, Andrew (ed)
SPCK (2006)
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For preachers and members of the congregation who take their Sunday church attendance seriously, there could hardly be a better book than this. Its title is somewhat misleading because it does not comment on every verse of all four Gospels but upon those passages selected for Sundays in the Common Worship Lectionary. The book opens with an explanation of the logic of the Ecumenical Lectionary which led in 1996 to its Common Worship edition. There is a lively discussion of the relative merits of a four-year cycle which devotes a whole year to John and our current arrangement of one year each for the rotation of the Synoptic Gospels with John interspersed; and a general conclusion that, whatever its defects, what we have now is better than the previous thematic ransacking.

The greatest merit of the commentary is that it is ecumenical. Aware of this aspect, I deliberately read all four authors without knowing which was which and could not discover their denominational affiliation from their text. For the record:

The quality is generally even but Morna Hooker has a lightness and sureness of touch which the others do not quite possess. The authors note the historical and interpretive controversies but do not attempt to resolve them, their intention being exegetical rather than historical; and they are content to leave expository aspects to the reader.

This means that the whole work is lean, with no excess clutter. Each Gospel has a brief introduction and its passages are then listed in their scriptural, as opposed to Lectionary calendar, order, so that there is some continuity and some reference to what the Lectionary omits.

If there is such a thing, I found this to be a page-turner. It only took an hour for each Gospel and enjoyed the reassuring feeling that if I got stuck for a framework for a homily, this cool, little book would sort me out.