In 2013 I happened to be at a lunch with Dr. Richard Hays and I asked him how his “big Gospels book” was coming. [We saw some of the earliest impressions of his work in his nice little essay in the Cambridge Companion to the Gospels in 2006.] In 2013 he told me he was simply too busy as dean to find dedicated time to work on this major project.
Many of you have heard that Dr. Hays was diagnosed with cancer over the summer and has been undergoing treatment (this is all public information). Dr. Hays himself has said that he wanted to finish his Gospels book immediately, and I know he has dedicated much of his energy in recent months to this.
This weekend I noticed that the book is now being advertised and appears on the Baylor University Press webpage and retail sites. I like that the cover art looks very similar to his 1989 book Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (similar colors, and classic look). This, of course, will be an important volume, the product of a brilliant mind and someone who has demonstrated himself over and over again to be a careful and eloquent writer. All students of the New Testament should order – nay, pre-order – this book.
The claim that the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection took place “according to the Scriptures” stands at the heart of the New Testament’s message. All four canonical Gospels declare that the Torah and the Prophets and the Psalms mysteriously prefigure Jesus. The author of the Fourth Gospel states this claim succinctly: in his narrative, Jesus declares, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (John 5:46). Yet modern historical criticism characteristically judges that the New Testament’s christological readings of Israel’s Scripture misrepresent the original sense of the texts; this judgment forces fundamental questions to be asked: Why do the Gospel writers read the Scriptures in such surprising ways? Are their readings intelligible as coherent or persuasive interpretations of the Scriptures? Does Christian faith require the illegitimate theft of someone else’s sacred texts?
Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels answers these questions. Richard B. Hays chronicles the dramatically different ways the four Gospel writers interpreted Israel’s Scripture and reveals that their readings were as complementary as they were faithful. In this long-awaited sequel to his Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, Hays highlights the theological consequences of the Gospel writers’ distinctive hermeneutical approaches and asks what it might mean for contemporary readers to attempt to read Scripture through the eyes of the Evangelists. In particular, Hays carefully describes the Evangelists’ practice of figural reading―an imaginative and retrospective move that creates narrative continuity and wholeness. He shows how each Gospel artfully uses scriptural echoes to re-narrate Israel’s story, to assert that Jesus is the embodiment of Israel’s God, and to prod the church in its vocation to engage the pagan world.
Hays shows how the Evangelists summon readers to a conversion of their imagination. The Evangelists’ use of scriptural echo beckons readers to believe the extraordinary: that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, that Jesus is Israel’s God, and that contemporary believers are still on mission. The Evangelists, according to Hays, are training our scriptural senses, calling readers to be better scriptural people by being better scriptural poets.