In his Introduction to The Gospels for All Christians, the collection of essays he edited, Richard Bauckham writes that
The aim of this book is to challenge and to refute the current consensus in Gospels scholarship which assumes that each of the Gospels was written for a specific church or group of churches: the so-called Matthean community, Markan community, Lukan community, and Johannine community (1).
Bauckham argues that this approach to the Gospels results in a divided Christian community which is not what the Gospels intended. To the contrary, Bauckham goes on to argue that "the Gospels were written with the intention that they should circulate around all the churches (and thence even outside the churches)" (1).
The thesis of the book and its articles is that the earliest Christian community consisted not of "isolated" groups each focusing on a different Gospel, but rather of "a network of communities on constant, close communication with each other" (2).
Bauckham's purpose in presenting such a thesis is not merely to show the closeness of the earliest Christian communities, but more importantly to lead to a dialogue among divided Christian groups today that will result in a more united Christian world as it approaches a new century and millennia.
Bauckham's work is fresh and original in terms of the perspective it offers and the challenge it makes to traditional Gospel scholarship. He justifies his challenge to conventional beliefs about the Gospels on the basis of his research and that of his fellow authors in this collection, as well as on the fact that the traditional view "has never been justified by argument and discussion" (1).
The book has not convinced this reader that the traditional view is incorrect, nor that Bauckham's view is supported by his and the other authors' research. What Bauckham has gathered is a fascinating group of very speculative essays which present preliminary work on the ...