What they Gospels say: the bigger bicture

What they Gospels say: the bigger bicture Jacob Jordaens, The Four Evangelists, 1625–1630.
Glimpses of the Gospels: Theological, Spiritual & Practical reflections

by Jack Mahoney SJ (Messenger Publications, €12.95 / £11.95)

Every week – for a few, every day – Catholics hear a gospel reading at Mass. As these readings are arranged over the year along with extracts from the Old Testament and the Epistles, present a schema of the year as a pageant that presents the story of Salvation.

Because of this, Jack Mahoney suggests, many think they have a clear idea of what Mathew, Mark, Luke and John are all about. But this he emphasises is not the case.


The readings are parts of a jigsaw put together to make one kind of picture. The gospels themselves read from end to end – which he suspects very few people do these days – present a very different and bigger picture.

In his text he deals with not the whole range of the gospel texts, but with “various passages in the New Testament which over the last few years have appealed to me as particularly interesting or challenging.”

Indeed the gospels are “interesting” and more than “challenging”. We hear what they have to say through a mesh of translation in which many nuances reflected the original cultures in which they emerged are caught.

Catholics seek a message in the Gospels that is so to speak ‘relevant’ to the way they live today”

What we hear, unless we are able to read the original Greek, is already a critical different from what the authors of the gospels wrote.

What will make this book valuable to many readers will be that though only a small range of incidents are discussed, the manner in which they are approached, analysed and the conclusions (tentative as some have to be) will guide his readers in their further explorations.

The subtitle is intended to suggest what aspects he hopes to reveal, the theological, spiritual and practical reflections they have given rise to in his mind. But readers have to be aware that behind his work is the work of many others experts on the original texts and matters of society and culture which are alien to us today.

Catholics seek a message in the Gospels that is so to speak ‘relevant’ to the way they live today. And in doing so they can inadvertently distort and fail to understand important matters, especially the Jewish culture from which Christianity springs directly.

As an Advent book Jack Mahoney’s book can be warmly recommended. But with a warning that he too has space only to deal with episodes, his readers should attempt to renew their acquaintance with the whole matter of the Gospels themselves.

This book will be a help to many to take that next step.